THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES:

DEBATE & DIALOGUE – MULTIPLE VIEWS & PERSPECTIVES

Compiled by David P. Craig, August, 2021

AFTERLIFE – Death, Intermediate State, Heaven and Hell

  • William V. Crockett, ed. Four Views on Hell. Counterpoints first edition: John F. Walvoord defends the “Literal View”; William V. Crockett defends the “Metaphorical View”; Zachary J. Hays defends the “Purgatorial View”; and Clark H Pinnock defends the “Conditional View.”
  • Edward William Fudge. Two Views of Hell: A biblical Theological Dialogue. Edward Fudge gives the case for “Conditionalism” and Robert A. Person gives the case for “Traditionalism.”
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Peter Kreeft. Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College, who shares much in common with evangelicals. 
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Four Views on Hell (Second Edition with New Contributors: Denny Burk defends the Eternal Conscious Torment view; John G. Stackhouse defends the Terminal Punishment view; Robin A. Parry defends the Universalist view; Jerry L. Walls defends the Hell and Purgatory view).
  • Michael E. Wittmer, ed. Four Views On Heaven. Zondervan Counterpoints Series: John S. Feinberg, “The Traditional View”; J. Richard Middleton, “Platonic Earthly View”; Michael Allen, “Heavenly Earth View”; Peter Kreeft, “Roman Catholic Beatific Vision View”.

APOLOGETICS – Giving Good Evidence for the Truth of Christianity 

  • James K. Beilby. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It. Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice. What is apologetics?; How has apologetics developed?; What are the basic apologetic approaches?; Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is a good place to start.
  • Kenneth D. Boa & Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Ever since the apostle Paul addressed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, relating the Christian worldview to a non-Christian world has been a challenge. And despite Peter’s charge to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15), most Christian laypeople have left apologetics―the defense of the faith―to the ecclesiastical pros. Faith Has Its Reasons is a study of four different models of how apologetics should be done, an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and a proposal for integrating the best insights of each. Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman have assembled a wealth of information about what Christians believe and how to present that faith to an unbelieving world. Remarkable both in its depth of content and ease of accessibility, Faith Has Its Reasons gives Christian laypeople the tools to address such critical questions as: Why is belief in God rational despite the prevalence of evil in the world?; What facts support the church’s testimony that Jesus rose from the dead?; Can we be certain Christianity is true?; and How can our faith in Christ be based on something more secure than our own understanding without descending into an irrational emotionalism?
  • Scott R. Burson & Jerry L. Walls. C. S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time. In some ways, they could not be more different: the pipe-smoking, Anglican Oxford don and the blue-collar scion of conservative Presbyterianism. But C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, each in his unique way, fashioned Christian apologetics that influenced millions in their lifetimes. And the work of each continues to be read and studied today. In this book Scott Burson and Jerry Walls compare and contrast for the first time the thought of Lewis and Schaeffer. With great respect for the legacy of each man, but with critical insight as well, they suggest strengths and weaknesses of their apologetics. All the while they consider what Lewis and Schaeffer still have to offer in light of postmodernism and other cultural currents that, since their deaths, have changed the apologetic landscape. This incisive book stands as both an excellent introduction to the work of these two important figures and a fresh proposal for apologetics at the dawn of a new century.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). William Lane Craig presents the “Classical Method”; Gary R. Habermas presents the “Evidential Method”; Paul D. Feinberg presents the “Cumulative Case Method”; John Frame presents the “Presuppositional Method”; and Kelly James Clark presents the “Reformed Epistemological Method.”
  • William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist. The question of whether or not God exists is profoundly fascinating and important. Now two articulate spokesmen–one a Christian, the other an atheist–duel over God’s existence in an illuminating battle of ideas. In God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong bring to the printed page two debates they held before live audiences, preserving all the wit, clarity, and immediacy of their public exchanges. Avoiding overly esoteric arguments, they directly address issues such as religious experience, the Bible, evil, eternity, the origin of the universe, design, and the supposed connection between morality and the existence of God. Employing sharp and humorous arguments, each philosopher strikes quickly to the heart of his opponent’s case. For example, Craig claims that we must believe in God in order to explain objective moral values, such as why rape is wrong. Sinnott-Armstrong responds that what makes rape wrong is the harm to victims of rape, so rape is immoral even if there is no God. By assuming a traditional concept of God in their discussion, the authors ensure that they are truly addressing each other’s viewpoints and engaging in a disagreement over a unified issue. The book is composed of six chapters that alternate between Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong, so that each separate point can be discussed as it arises.
  • Gary R. Habermas, Antony G.N. Flew, & Terry L. Mieth. Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? The Resurrection Debate. This is the most important question regarding the claims of the Christian faith. Certainly no question in modern religious history demands more attention or interest, as witnessed by the vast body of literature dealing with the Resurrection. James I. Packer says it well in his response to this debate: ‘When Christians are asked to make good their claim that this scheme is truth, they point to Jesus’ resurrection. The Easter event, so they affirm, demonstrated Jesus’ deity; validated his teaching; attested to the completion of his work of atonement for sin; confirms his present cosmic dominion and coming reappearance as Judge; assures us that his personal pardon, presence, and power in people’s lives today is fact; and guarantees each believer’s own reembodiment by Resurrection in the world to come’ The Apostle Paul considered the Resurrection to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole structure, Christianity, collapses. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, ‘our preaching is useless and so is you faith’ More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile [emphasis added]’ The Christian faith-and its claim to be Truth-exists only if Jesus rose from the dead. The heart of Christianity is a living Christ.
  • J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist? The Debate Between Theists and Atheists. Is there a God? What is the evidence for belief in such a being? What is God like? Or, is God a figment of human inspiration? How do we know that such a being might not exist? Should belief or disbelief in God’s existence make a difference in our opinions and moral choices, in the way we see ourselves and relate to those around us? These are fundamental questions, and their answers have shaped individual lives, races, and nations throughout history. On March 24, 1988, at the University of Mississippi, J.P. Moreland, a leading Christian philosopher and ethicist, and Kai Nielsen, one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers, went head-to-head over these questions. Does God Exist? records their entire lively debate and includes questions from the audience, the debaters’ answers, and the responses of four recognized scholars – William Lane Craig, Antony Flew, Dallas Willard, and Keith Parsons. Noted author and philosopher Peter Kreeft has written an introduction, concluding chapter, and appendix – all designed to help readers decide for themselves whether God is fact or fantasy.
  • Armand M. Nicholi Jr. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Renowned psychiatrist and educator Armand Nicholi here presents a fascinating comparison of the beliefs of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. For all the variety of specific religious beliefs, there are fundamentally only two kinds of people: believers and nonbelievers. In the 20th century, no spokesman was more prominent for nonbelief than Sigmund Freud, and no one argued for belief more successfully than C. S. Lewis. From pain and suffering to love and sex, from God to morality, Lewis and Freud carefully argued opposing positions and even considered the chief objections to their positions. Based on Nicholi’s years of studying both men, including wide access to Freud’s letters, this debate on the greatest of subjects strikes at the deepest chords in our souls.

BAPTISM – One of two essential ordinances of the Christian Faith.

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life). What is the significance of water baptism? Who should be baptized? Is infant baptism scriptural? Which is the proper baptismal mode: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should people be rebaptized if they join a church that teaches a different form of baptism? Should baptism be required for church membership? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book. Four historic views on baptism are considered in depth: “Baptism of the professing regenerate by immersion: Baptist View” presented by Thomas J. Nettles; “Believers’ baptism on the occasion of regeneration by immersion: Christian Churches/Churches of Christ View” presented by Hohn D. Castelein;  “Infant baptism by sprinkling as a regenerative act: Lutheran View” presented by Robert Kolb; and “Infant baptism of children of the covenant: Reformed View” presented by Richard L. Pratt Jr. Each view is presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended in dialogue with the book’s other contributors. Here is an ideal setting in which you can consider the strengths and weaknesses of each stance and arrive at your own informed conclusion.
  • David F. Wright, ed. Baptism: Three Views. Bruce A. Ware presents the “Believers’ Baptism View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson presents the “Infant Baptism View”; Anthony N.S. Lane presents the “Dual-Practice View.”

BIBLIOLOGY – A Defense of the Bible and Controversies in the Bible, about the Bible, and its People and Books

  • Michael F. Bird, ed. Four Views On The Apostle Paul (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The apostle Paul was a vital force in the development of Christianity. Paul’s historical and religious context affects the theological interpretation of Paul’s writings, no small issue in the whole of Christian theology. Recent years have seen much controversy about the apostle Paul, his religious and social context, and its effects on his theology. In the helpful Counterpoints format, four leading scholars present their views on the best framework for describing Paul’s theological perspective, including his view of salvation, the significance of Christ, and his vision for the churches. Contributors and views include: “The Reformed View”:  presented by Thomas R. Schreiner; “The Catholic View”: presented by Luke Timothy Johnson; “The Post-New Perspective View”: presented by Douglas Campbell; and “The Jewish View”: presented by Mark D. Nanos. Like other titles in the Counterpoints: Bible and Theology collection, Four Views on the Apostle Paul gives theology students the tools they need to draw informed conclusions on debated issues. General editor and New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird covers foundational issues and provides helpful summaries in his introduction and conclusion.
  • David Alan Black, ed. Perspectives On The Ending of Mark: Four Views. Because it is conspicuously absent from more than one early Greek manuscript, the final section of the gospel of Mark (16:9-20) that details Christ’s resurrection remains a constant source of debate among serious students of the New Testament. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark presents in counterpoint form the split opinions about this difficult passage with a goal of determining which is more likely. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors Maurice Robinson and David Alan Black argue for the verses’ authenticity. Keith Elliott (University of Leeds) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) contend that they are not original to Mark’s gospel. Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary) responds to each view and summarizes the state of current research on the entire issue.
  • D.A. Carson. The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism. The author addresses laypeople and pastors with a concise explanation of the science of textual criticism and refutes the proposition that the King James Version is superior to contemporary translations.
  • Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture. In Defense of the Bible gathers exceptional articles by accomplished scholars (Paul Copan, William A. Dembski, Mary Jo Sharp, Darrell L. Bock, etc.), addressing and responding to all of the major contemporary challenges to the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. The book begins by looking at philosophical and methodological challenges to the Bible—questions about whether or not it is logically possible for God to communicate verbally with human beings; what it means to say the Bible is true in response to postmodern concerns about the nature of truth; defending the clarity of Scripture against historical skepticism and relativism. Contributors also explore textual and historical challenges—charges made by Muslims, Mormons, and skeptics that the Bible has been corrupted beyond repair; questions about the authorship of certain biblical books; allegations that the Bible borrows from pagan myths; the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments. Final chapters take on ethical, scientific, and theological challenges— demonstrating the Bible’s moral integrity regarding the topics of slavery and sexism; harmonizing exegetical and theological conclusions with the findings of science; addressing accusations that the Christian canon is the result of political and theological manipulation; ultimately defending the Bible as not simply historically reliable and consistent, but in fact the Word of God.
  • F. David Farnell and Norman L. Geisler, eds. Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate. The inerrancy of God’s Word has been attacked throughout church history. Today’s assaults are unique since neo-evangelicals now surrender to post-modernistic ideas of history and historical-critical ideologies that assault this vital doctrine. They seek to redefine the orthodox meaning of inerrancy. Since the signing of the Chicago Statements, troubling signs have once again appeared in recent years among many who either did not fight the battles for the inerrancy of Scripture as did the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, or who do not remember the troubling times that caused their development. The nature and definition of “inerrancy” are now being changed to include ideas of fallibility. History is forgotten. The need arises for sounding the alarm for Vital Issues in Inerrancy. Evangelical schools and churches that broke away earlier to defend inerrancy surrender now to academic prestige and scholarly fads instead of faithfulness to God’s inerrant Word. The contributors pray that the Lord will raise up a new generation with the spiritual fervency of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to uphold the inerrancy of God’s Word: Isaiah 40:8–“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
  • Scott M. Gibson and Matthew D. Kim. Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Scott Gibson and Matthew Kim, both experienced preachers and teachers, have brought together four preaching experts–Bryan Chapell, Kenneth Langley, Abraham Kuruvilla, and Paul Scott Wilson–to present and defend their approach to homiletics. Reflecting current streams of thought in homiletics, the book offers a robust discussion of theological and hermeneutical approaches to preaching and encourages pastors and ministry students to learn about preaching from other theological traditions. It also includes discussion questions for direct application to one’s preaching.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views On God and Canaanite Genicide (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). A discussion of various contemporary evangelical views of genocide in the Old Testament. Christians are often shocked to read that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, commanded the total destruction―all men, women, and children―of the ethnic group know as the Canaanites. This seems to contradict Jesus’ command in the New Testament to love your enemies and do good to all people. How can Yahweh be the same God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? What does genocide in the Bible have to do with the politics of the 21st century? This book explores, in typical Counterpoints format, the Old Testament command of God to exterminate the Canaanite population and what that implies about continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The four points of view presented on the continuity of the Testaments are: “Strong Discontinuity” presented by C . S. Cowles; “Moderate Discontinuity” presented by Eugene H. Merrill; “Spiritual Continuity” presented by Tremper Longman III; and “Eschatological Continuity” presented by Daniel L. Gard.
  • Charles Halton, ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). James K. Hoffmeier writes about “Genesis 1-11 As History and Theology”; Gordon J. Wenham writes about “Genesis 1-11 As ProtoHistory”; and Kenton L. Sparks writes about “Genesis 1-11 As Ancient Hisoriography.”
  • Mark D. Janzen, ed. Five Views on the Exodus: Historicity, Chronology, and Theological Implications (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Five Views on the Exodus looks at competing views on the historicity, chronology, and theological implications of the exodus. The biblical account of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is one of the most enduring narratives ever told and is a foundational event for several world religions. It resonates across cultures with its timeless themes of redemption and deliverance. It is also the only explanation the Bible gives for Israel’s origin. Despite its unique legacy, many scholars regard the exodus as fictitious or a cultural memory that may not be a historical event. Even among those who believe the exodus happened, there is no consensus regarding its date. Five Views on the Exodus brings together experts in the fields of biblical studies, Egyptology, and archaeology to discuss and debate the most vexing questions about the exodus. Each offers their own view and offer constructive responses to other leading views on the exodus. The five views presented here include: “The Early Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Fifteenth Century BC” by Scott Stripling; “The Late Date: A Historical Exodus in the Thirteenth Century BC” by James K. Hoffmeier; “A Hyksos Levite Led Exodus in the Time of Ramesses II” by Peter Feinman; “The Alternative Late Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Twelfth Century BC” by Gary A. Rendsburg; and “The Exodus as Cultural Memory: A Transformation of Historical Events” by Ronald Hendel.
  • Scot McKnight and B.J. Oropeza, eds. Perspectives on Paul: Five Views. This five-views work brings together an all-star lineup of Pauline scholars to offer a constructive, interdenominational, up-to-date conversation on key issues of Pauline theology. The editors begin with an informative recent history of biblical tradition related to the perspectives on Paul. John M. G. Barclay, A. Andrew Das, James D. G. Dunn, Brant Pitre, and Magnus Zetterholm then discuss how to interpret Paul’s writings and theology, especially the apostle’s view of salvation. The book concludes with an assessment of the perspectives from a pastoral point of view by Dennis Edwards.
  • Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, eds. Romans: Four Perspectives. There are several top notch evangelical scholars that participate in this book that interact with various issues in dialogue: Stephen Westerholm writes about “Romans and the ‘Lutheran’ Paul”; Scot McKnight writes about “Romans and the New Perspective”; Douglas A. Campbell writes “Romans and the Apocalyptic Reading of Paul”; and Michael J. Gorman writes “Romans and the Participationist Perspective.” There are significant passages and issues in Romans dealt with by Michael F. Bird; Thomas R. Schreiner; Carl R. Trueman; James D.G. Dunn; and others.
  • J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett, eds. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following five views are presented: “When The Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What The Bible Does” by Peter Enns; “Inerrancy Is Not Necessary For Evangelicalism Outside the USA” by Michael F. Bird; “Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, And Literate Interpretation In the Economy of Biblical Doctrine” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible As Witness To Missional Plurality” by John R. Franke.
  • Stanley E. Porter and Beth M. Stovell, eds. Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views. Craig L. Blomberg presents the “Historical-Critical/Grammatical View”; F. Scott Spencer presents the “Literary/Postmodern View”; Merold Westphal presents the “Philosophical View”; Richard B. Gaffin Jr. presents the “Redemptive-Historical View”; and Robert W. Wall presents the “Canonical View.”
  • Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer. The Synoptic Problem: Four Views. The relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke is one of the most contested topics in Gospel studies. How do we account for the close similarities–and differences–in the Synoptic Gospels? In the last few decades, the standard answers to the typical questions regarding the Synoptic Problem have come under fire, while new approaches have surfaced. Following an overview of the issues, leading proponents of each view set forth their positions and respond to each of the other views. This up-to-date introduction articulates and debates the four major views: “The Two Source Hypothesis” presented by Craig A. Evans;  “The Farrer Hypothesis” presented by Mark Goodacre; “The Two Gospel Hypothesis” presented by David Barrett Peabody; and “Orality and Memory Hypothesis” presented by Rainer Riesner.  A concluding chapter summarizes the discussion and charts a direction for further study.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart D. Ehrman & Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue. Several renowned evangelical scholars tackle the many and varied objections of liberal scholar Bart D. Ehrman.
  • Robert L. Thomas. Three Views On The Origins of the Synoptic Gospels. While secular critics and liberal religious scholars have discounted the historicity and integrity of the first three Gospels, evangelicals maintain that the Synoptic Gospels fully support a high view of inspiration and historicity, despite varying views among evangelicals on Gospel origins. Four evangelical scholars join together in a presentation/response format to examine the three dominant views on Gospel origins. Grant Osborne and Matthew Williams present the “Two-Source or Markian Priority View”; John H. Niemelä presents the “Two Gospel or Matthewan Priority View”; and F. David Farnell presents the “Independence View”. Robert Thomas provides a helpful introduction to the issues and a final summary of the discussion.
  • James R. White. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity. A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is at the core of almost every form of opposition to the Christian faith today. Scripture Alone is written to instill a passionate love for and understanding of the Bible. In this defense of God’s inspired Word, readers will comprehend what “God’s Word” is, the nature of Scripture, the relationship of the Bible to tradition, how to apply Scripture to today’s issues, and much more. Included is a faith-inspiring study of the canon–what it is and where it came from.

CHRISTOLOGY – The Doctrine of Jesus – His Historicity, Person, and Nature

  • W. David Beck and Michael R. Licona, eds. Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Raised on the Third Day approaches these questions with critical and believing eyes. A variety of contributors―including J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Craig A. Evans, Beth M. Sheppard, and Sean McDowell―evaluate scriptural, historical, moral, and apologetic issues related to Christ’s death and resurrection. Readers will better appreciate how Gary Habermas has shaped the discussion and how scholarship can be moved forward. Study of Christ’s resurrection is far from exhausted. Gary R. Habermas is one of the most influential Christian philosophers and apologists of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His life’s work has focused on matters pertaining to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is widely agreed that Habermas is the foremost authority on the subject. This festschrift is a tribute to that work.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Historical Jesus: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public’s attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus. Beginning with a scene-setting historical introduction by the editors, prominent figures in the Jesus quest set forth their views and respond to their fellow scholars. On the one end Robert M. Price lucidly maintains that the probability of Jesus’ existence has reached the “vanishing point,” and on the other Darrell Bock ably argues that while critical method yields only a “gist” of Jesus, it takes us in the direction of the Gospel portraits. In between there are numerous avenues to explore, questions to be asked and “assured results” to be weighed. And John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson and James D. G. Dunn probe these issues with formidable knowledge and honed insight, filling out a further range of options. The Historical Jesus: Five Views offers a unique entry into the Jesus quest. For both the classroom and personal study, this is a book that fascinates, probes and engages.
  • Darrell L. Bock. Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods. Interest in the historical Jesus continues to occupy much of today’s discussion of the Bible. The vexing question is how the Jesus presented in the Gospels relates to the Jesus that actually walked this earth. Studying the Historical Jesus is an introductory guide to how one might go about answering that question by doing historical inquiry into the material found in the Gospels. Darrell Bock introduces the sources of our knowledge about Jesus, both biblical and extra-biblical. He then surveys the history and culture of the world of Jesus. The final chapters introduce some of the methods used to study the Gospels, including historical, redaction, and narrative criticisms. Bock, a well respected author, provides an informed evangelical alternative to radical projects like the Jesus Seminar. His audience, however, is not limited only to evangelicals. This book, written for college and seminary courses, offers an informed scholarly approach that takes the Gospels seriously as a source of historical information.
  • Paul Copan and Ronald K. Taccelli. Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann. Was the resurrection of Jesus a fact of history or a figment of imagination? Was it an event that entailed a raised and transformed body and an empty tomb? Or was it a subjective, visionary experience–a collective delusion? In the view of many, the truth of Christianity hangs on the answer to this question. Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? is a lively and provocative debate between Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig and New Testament scholar and atheist Gerd LÜdemann. This published version of a debate originally set at Boston College is edited by Paul Copan and Ronald K. Tacelli, who invite the responses of four additional scholars. Robert Gundry, a New Testament scholar, and Stephen Davis, a philosopher, argue in support of a historical and actual resurrection. Michael Goulder and Roy Hoover, both New Testament scholars, offer their support for Gerd LÜdemann’s view that the “resurrection” was based on the guilt-induced visionary experience of the disciples. The book concludes with a final response from LÜdemann and Craig.
  • Paul Copan, ed. Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Offers readers a clarifying and insightful comparison and contrast between the Jesus Seminar (Crossan), on the one hand, and evangelical theologians (Craig), on the other.
  • John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue. Two of today’s most important and popular New Testament scholars–John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright–air their very different understandings of the many historical realities and theological meanings of Jesus’ Resurrection.
  • Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, and Robert B. Stewart. Can We Trust on the Historical Jesus? This book features a learned and fascinating debate between two great Bible scholars about the New Testament as a reliable source on the historical Jesus. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic New Testament scholar, debates Craig Evans, an evangelical New Testament scholar, about the historical Jesus and what constitutes “history.” Their interaction includes such compelling questions as: What are sound methods of historical investigation? What are reliable criteria for determining the authenticity of an ancient text? What roles do reason and inference play? And, of course, interpretation? Readers of this debate—regardless of their interpretive inclinations and biases—are sure to find some confirmation of their existing beliefs, but they will surely also find an honest and well-informed challenge to the way they think about the historical Jesus. The result? A more open, better informed, and questioning mind, which is better prepared for discovering both truth and contrivance. The debate between Ehrman and Evans along with Stewart’s introductory framework make this book an excellent primer to the study of the historical Jesus, and readers will come away with a deeper appreciation for the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus.
  • Peter Kreeft. Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ. What would happen if Socrates–yes, the Socrates of ancient Athens–suddenly showed up on the campus of a major university and enrolled in its divinity school?; What would he think of human progress since his day?; How would he react to our values?; To our culture?; And what would he think of Jesus? Peter Kreeft, A Catholic philosopher and longtime admirer of the historic Socrates, imagines the result. In this drama Socrates meets such fellow students as Bertha Broadmind, Thomas Keptic and Molly Mooney. Throughout, Kreeft weaves an intriguing web as he brings Socrates closer and closer to a meeting with Jesus. Here is a startling and provocative portrayal of reason in search of truth. In a new introduction to this revised edition, Kreeft also highlights the inspiration for this book and the key questions of truth and faith it addresses.
  • Michael R. Licona. Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The Resurrection. Imagine if the Apostle Paul were alive to defend the truth of Jesus’s resurrection only to be countered by none other than the prophet Muhammad himself. In an approach as creative as any scholar has taken, Michael R. Licona describes an invention that can make historical figures appear alive and present. Imagining an audience of both Christians and Muslims, Licona crafts a lively debate between Paul and Muhammad, each speaking on and analyzing the validity of the Qur’an, the gospel accounts, and both Christian and Muslim doctrine.Intriguing and entertaining, Paul Meets Muhammad uniquely offers evangelism advice for Christians who want to speak the gospel to Muslim friends and neighbors. This fictional scenario presents a powerful, comprehensive defense of Jesus’s resurrection and of Christianity itself.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue. Several respected evangelical scholars interact with liberal scholars on issues related to the Historical Jesus.
  • Benjamin B. Warfield, Benjamin W. Bacon, Andrew C. Zenos, & Rush Rhees. The Supernatural Birth of Jesus: Four Perspectives on the Historicity and Meaning of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. In 1906 The American Journal of Theology commissioned four scholars to write on the question of the ‘Supernatural Birth of Jesus and whether belief in the same is essential for Christianity. These contributions have been reformatted to make it more readily accessible to readers using e-readers. This book reproduces their contributions. In it Benjamin W Bacon and Andrew C Zenos, respectively from Yale Divinity School and McCormick Theological Seminary address the question of whether the supernatural birth of Jesus can be historically established. Also contributing are Rush Rhees and Benjamin B Warfield, respectively from the University of Rochester and Princeton Theological Seminary address the theological question of whether the supernatural birth of Jesus is an essential doctrine of Christianity. 
  • Peter S. Williams. Resurrection: Faith or Fact?: A Scholars’ Debate Between a Skeptic and a Christian. Is there enough evidence to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or must such a judgment be based only on faith? Can the resurrection story be considered a fact of history, or should it be viewed as an ahistorical account? Two renowned professors, atheist Carl Stecher and Christian Craig Blomberg, engage in a groundbreaking new debate on these very questions. Other experts on the resurrection, atheist Richard Carrier and Christian Peter S. Williams, comment on the outcome. Presenting new approaches to these centuries-old questions and taking into account the latest scholarly research, Resurrection: Faith or Fact? is a must-have not only for all those following the resurrection question—but also for those skeptics and Christians alike who are interested in determining for themselves the truth behind this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.

COMMUNION – Understanding, preparing for, and participating in the Lord’s Supper

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Counterpoints Church Life). Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? How frequently should we observe it? What does this meal mean? What happens when we eat the bread and drink from the cup? What do Christians disagree about and what do they hold in common? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book.This new volume in the Counterpoints: Church Life series allows four contributors to make a case for the following views: “The Baptist View: Memorialism” defended by Russell D. Moore; “The Reformed View: Spiritual Presence” defended by  I. John Hesselink; “The Lutheran View: Consubstantiation” defended by David P. Scaer; and Roman Catholic View: Transubstantiation” defended by Thomas A. Baima. All contributors use Scripture to present their views, and each responds to the others’ essays. This book helps readers arrive at their own conclusions. It includes resources such as a listing of statements on the Lord’s Supper from creeds and confessions, quotations from noted Christians, a resource listing of books on the Lord’s Supper, and discussion questions for each chapter to facilitate small group and classroom use.
  • Peter Kreeft. Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College.
  • Gordon T. Smith, ed. The Lord’s Supper: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Book). Lord’s Supper. Eucharist. Communion. Sacrament. Ordinance. While it’s the meal that should unite us as followers of Christ, it sometimes appears we can’t even agree on what to call it, let alone how we might share a common theological view of its significance. Even if we cannot reach full agreement, how can we better understand one another and this central observance of the Christian faith? Gordon Smith has invited five representatives of differing views within Christian tradition. Each holds his or her views with conviction and makes the case for that tradition. Each responds to the other views with charity, highlighting significant areas of agreement and disagreement. The views and contributors include: “The Roman Catholic View”–Brother Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., Professor of Church History, Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee; “The Lutheran View”–John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catherines, Ontario; “The Reformed View”–Leanne Van Dyk, Academic Dean and Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan; “The Baptist View”–Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas; “The Pentecostal View”–Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Here’s a book that offers more light than heat on an important topic.

CONFLICT and PEACEMAKING – How to interact with those you disagree with

  • Ronald H. Nash. Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Great Divides addresses the following ten issues on which many Christians disagree: The Health and Wealth Gospel; The End Times; Divorce and Remarriage; Reconstructionism; Political Involvement; Lordship Salvation; Radical Feminism; Abortion; and Women in Church Leadership. By examining the major positions held by other Christians today, it will encourage you to articulate your own position, understand the positions of others, and act upon the issues faithfully.
  • Gavin Ortlund. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage. In theology, just as in battle, some hills are worth dying on. But how do we know which ones? When should doctrine divide, and when should unity prevail? Pastor Gavin Ortlund makes the case that while all doctrines matter, some are more essential than others. He considers how and what to prioritize in doctrine and ministry, encouraging humility and grace along the way. Using four basic categories of doctrine in order of importance, this book helps new and seasoned church leaders alike wisely labor both to uphold doctrine and to preserve unity.

ECCLESIOLOGY  – The Study of the Church and It’s Nature and Practices

  • Paul A. Basden, ed. Exploring The Worship Spectrum: 6 Views ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Paul F.M. Zahl prescribes the “Formal-Liturgical  Worship View”; Harold M. Best prescribes the “Traditional Hymn-Based Worship View”; Joe Horness prescribes the “Contemporary Music-Driven Worship View”; Don Williams prescribes the “Charismatic Worship View”; Robert Webber prescribes the “Blended Worship View”; and Sally Morgenthaler articulates the “Emerging Worship View.”
  • James R. Beck, ed. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The views presented are as follows: “Women In Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective” by Linda L. Belleville; ““Women In Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective” by Craig L. Blomberg; “Women In Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective” by Craig S. Keener; and “Women In Ministry: Another Complementarian Perspective” by Thomas R. Schreiner.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Church Governance: Five Views Of Church Polity. “The Single-Elder-Led Church: The Bible’s Witness to a Congregational/Single-Elder-Led Polity View” is defended by Daniel L. Akin; “The Presbyterian-Led Church: Presbyterian Church Government View” is defended by Robert L. Reymond; “The Congregation-Led Church: Congrgational Polity View” is defended by James Leo Garret, Jr.; “The Bishop-Led Church: The Episcopal or Anglican Polity View” is defended by Paul F.M. Zahl; and “The Plural-Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established—The Plurality of Elders as Christ’s Ordained Means of Church Governance View” is defended by James R. White.
  • Bonnidell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse, eds. Women in Ministry: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Should women teach men? Should they exercise authority over men? What about ordaining women? Even those who agree that Scripture must determine our answers do not agree on what it teaches. And too often differing sides have not been willing to listen to one another. Here in one volume are the views of four deeply committed evangelicals that focus the discussion on the issues. Robert Culver argues for what might be called the “traditional view” that women should not exercise authority over or teach men. Susan Foh suggests a “modified view” which would allow for women to teach but not to hold positions of authority. Walter Liefeld presents a case for “plural ministry” that questions ordination as a means of conferring authority. Alvera Mickelsen defends the “full equality of men and women in the church.” What makes this book especially helpful is that the writers all respond to the other essays, pointing out weaknesses and hidden assumptions.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Who Runs The Church? 4 Views on Church Government (Counterpoints Church Life). Churches have split and denominations have formed over the issue of church government. Yet while many Christians can explain their particular church’s form of rule and may staunchly uphold it, few have a truly biblical understanding of it. What model for governing the church does the Bible provide? Is there room for different methods? Or is just one way the right way? In Who Runs the Church? Four predominant approaches to church government are presented by respected proponents: “Episcopalianism” articulated by Peter Toon; “Presbyterianism articulated by L. Roy Taylor;  “Single-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Paige Patterson; and “Plural-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Samuel E. Waldron.
  • David A. Croteau, ed. Perspectives On Tithing: 4 Views. Was the tithe just for Israel, or is it also applicable to Christians? Must a tithe go only to your local church, or can it be received by any Christian organization? Do we tithe on the net or the gross amount? Perspectives on Tithing presents in point-counterpoint format the most common views about how Christians are to give of their financial resources, addressing the myriad of questions that surround the complex issue. Ken Hemphill (Empowering Kingdom Growth) and Bobby Eklund (Eklund Stewardship Ministries) contribute “The Foundations of Giving” while the book’s editor, David A. Croteau (Liberty University), writes “The Post-Tithing View: Giving in the New Covenant.” A chapter by Reggie Kidd (Reformed Theological Seminary) is called “Tithing in the New Covenant? ‘Yes’ as Principle, ‘No’ as Casuistry.” Finally, Gary North (Institute for Christian Economics) looks directly at “The Covenantal Tithe,” and Scott Preissler (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) provides the epilogue.
  • Christopher John Donato, ed. Perspectives on the Sabbath. Perspectives on the Sabbath presents in point-counterpoint form the four most common views of the Sabbath commandment that have arisen throughout church history, representing the major positions held among Christians today. Skip MacCarty (Andrews University) defends the Seventh-day view which argues the fourth commandment is a moral law of God requiring us to keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy. It must therefore remain the day of rest and worship for Christians. Jospeh A Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) backs the Christian Sabbath view which reasons that ever since the resurrection of Christ, the one day in seven to be kept holy is the first day of the week. Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) supports the Fulfillment view which says that since Christ has brought the true Sabbath rest into the present, the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament are no longer binding on believers. Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary) upholds the Lutheran view that the Sabbath commandment was given to Jews alone and does not concern Christians. Rest and worship are still required but not tied to a particular day.
  • Gary L. McIntosh, ed. Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Gaining form and momentum over the second half of the 20th century, the Church Growth movement has become an enormous shaping force on the Western church today. You may love it, you may hate it, but you can’t deny its impact. But what exactly is Church Growth? In what ways has the movement actually brought growth to the church, and how effective has it been in doing so? What are its strengths and weaknesses? This timely book addresses such questions. After providing a richly informative history and overview, it explores—in a first-ever roundtable of their leading voices—five main perspectives, both pro and con, on the classic Church Growth movement: “Effective Evangelism View” presented by Elmer Towns; “The Gospel in Our Culture View” presented by Craig Van Gelder; “The Centrist View” presented by Charles Van Engen; “The Reformist View” presented by  Gailyn Van Rheenan; and “The Renewal View” presented by Howard Snyder.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Perspectives On Christian Worship: 5 Views. Perspectives on Christian Worship presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on Christian worship that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. The views presented are “Liturgical Worship” by Timothy C.J. Quin; “Traditional Evangelical Worship” by Ligon Duncan; “Contemporary Worship” by Dan Wilt; “Blended Worship” by Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever; and “Emerging Worship” by Dan Kimball.
  • Robert Saucy and Judith TenElshof, eds. Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective. The role of women in the church is a debate that has raged within the church for much of the twentieth century. On one side are those who say there is no difference between men and women. On the other side are those who severely limit women who want to offer ministry to the church. Judith TenElshof and Robert Saucy take the middle approach. Believing that the modern views have denied the distinctions between men and women, the authors adopt a view called complementarianism. TenElshof and Saucy argue that while men and women are equal, God has given different roles to each and that these roles rely on each other to be fully effective.
  • Jason S. Sexton, ed. Four Views On The Church’s Mission ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). This book articulates various evangelical views regarding the church’s mission and provides a healthy, vigorous, and gracious debate on this controversial topic. In a helpful Counterpoints format, this volume demonstrates the unique theological frameworks, doctrinal convictions, and missiological conclusions that inform and distinguish the views: “Soteriological Mission”:  presented by Jonathan Leeman; “Participatory Mission”: presented by Christopher Wright; “Contextual Mission”: presented by John Franke; and “Ecumenical-Political Mission”: presented by Peter Leithart. Each of the four contributors is to answer the same key questions based on their biblical interpretations and theological convictions. What is your biblical-theological framework for mission? How does your definition of mission inform your understanding of the church’s mission? How does the Mission of God and Kingdom of God relate to the mission of the church? What is the gospel? How does your view on the gospel inform the mission of the church? How do verbal proclamation of the gospel, discipleship, corporate worship, caring for the poor, social justice, restoring shalom, developing culture, and international missions fit into the church’s mission? The interaction between the contributors will help readers get a clearer picture of where the differences lie and why different conclusions are drawn and provide a fresh starting point for discussion and debate of the church’s mission.
  • Robert Webber, ed. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives. What are the beliefs of the new movement known as the emerging church? In thought-provoking debate, prominent emerging leaders John Burke, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward discuss their sometimes controversial views under the editorship of author and educator Robert Webber. Hear what they say about their views of Scripture, Christ, the atonement, other world religions, and other important doctrines, so you can come to your own conclusions about the emerging church.

EDUCATION – How To Best Make Disciples among children, youth & families

  • Michael J. Anthony, ed. Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation: Four Views. Scott May argues for “The Contemplative-Reflective Model”; Gregory C. Carlson and John K. Crupper argues for “The Instructional-Analytic Model”; Trisha Graves argues for “The Pragmatic-Participatory Model”; and Tim Ellis, Bill Baumgart, and Greg Carper argue for “The Media-Driven Active-Engagement Model.”
  • Chap Clark, ed. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century (Youth, Family, and Culture): Five Views. Bestselling author Chap Clark is one of the leading voices in youth ministry today. In this multiview work, he brings together a diverse group of leaders to present major views on youth ministry. Chapters are written in essay/response fashion by Fernando Arzola Jr., Greg Stier, Ron Hunter Jr., Brian Cosby, and Chap Clark. As the contributors present their views and respond to each of the other views, they discuss their task and calling, giving readers the resources they need to develop their own approach to youth ministry. Offering a model of critical thinking and respectful dialogue, this volume provides a balanced, irenic approach to a topic with which every church wrestles.
  • Adam Harwood and Kevin E. Lawson. Infants and Children in the Church: Five Views on Theology and Ministry. A congregation rejoices when a new child is added to its midst, yet the church often wrestles—in both theology and practice—with how to best receive and minister to infants and children entrusted to her care. Frequent questions arise like: How are infants and children impacted by sin?; How does God treat people who die in their infancy or childhood?; When and how are children considered members of the church?; and When and how are children instructed in Christian doctrine? Infants and Children in the Church addresses these critical and sensitive questions from a variety of rich traditions, including Eastern Orthodox (jason Foster), Roman Catholic (David Liberto), Lutheran (David P. Scaer), Reformed (Gregg Strawbridge), and Baptist (Adam Harwood), so that Christians can make the most of every opportunity as they minister to children.
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views. Every church is called to some form of family ministry, but this calling requires far more than adding another program to an already-packed schedule. The most effective family ministries refocus every church process to engage parents in discipling their children and to draw family members together instead of pulling them apart. In this second edition, Jones expands the definition of family ministry, and broadens the book’s focus to address urban perspectives and family ministry in diverse settings. 
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: Four Views. In Perspectives on a Child’s Education, proponents of four very different learning options present their faith-based positions on how a parent should answer the question, “Where should I send my child to school?” Troy Temple (International Center for Youth Ministry) is convinced every Christian parent should consider public schooling. G. Tyler Fischer (Veritas Academy) believes open admission Christian schools are best for Christians and non-Christians alike. Mark Eckel (Mahseh Center) favors covenantal Christian schools that don’t enroll non-Christians. Michael Wilder (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) advocates homeschooling. For each contributor’s chapter, a counterpoint chapter from the other contributors follows with a goal of determining which view is most in line with what the Bible teaches.
  • Mark H. Senter III, ed. Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church: Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, and Strategic. Join the conversation as experts propose, defend, and explore Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. In a dialog that often gets downright feisty, four youth ministry academicians delineate their distinct philosophical and ecclesiological views regarding how youth ministry relates to the church at large–and leave a taste of what’s profound and what’s not in these four typologies: “Inclusive congregational” (Malan Nel). What happens when a church thoroughly integrates its adolescents, making them full partners in every aspect of congregational life? “Preparatory” (Wesley Black). Why and how should a church consider its teenagers as disciples-in-training and its youth ministry a school of preparation for future participation in church life? “Missional “ (Chap Clark). What does a church look like, whose youth ministry does not necessarily nurture “church kids” but is essentially evangelistic? Whose youths and youth workers are considered missionaries? “Strategic” (Mark Senter). How feasible is it for a youth ministry to become a new church on its own–the youth pastor becoming the pastor, and the new church planted with the blessing of the mother church? In Four View of Your Ministry and the Church, solid academic writing and an inviting tone and design create a compelling text for both in-the-field, practicing youth workers and undergraduates and graduate student

ESCHATOLOGY – The Study of Last Things

  • Darrell L. Bock, ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Craig A. Blaising defends the “Premillennial View;” Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Robert B. Strimple defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views. Robert L. Raymond presents the “Traditional Covenantal View”; Robert L. Thomas presents the “Traditional Dispensational View”; Robert L. Saucy presents the “Progressive Dispensational View”; and Tom Pratt presents the “Progressive Covenantal View.”
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views. George Eldon Ladd defends the “Historic Premillennialism View”; Herman A. Hoyt defends the “Dispensational Premillennial View”; Loraine Boettner defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Anthony A Hoekema defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Jared Compton, ed. Three Views on Israel and the Church: Perspectives on Romans 9-11. Michael J. Vlach defends “A Non-Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Fred G. Zaspel and James M. Hamilton defend “A Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Benjamin L. Merkle defends “A Typological Non-Future Mass Conversion View.”
  • John S. Feinberg, ed. Continuity and Discontinuity. Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. Evangelicals agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant word. But we sometimes differ on how to relate the messages of the Old and New Testaments. Without a basic understanding of this crucial matter, it is difficult to know how to use the Testaments to formulate either doctrine or practice. For example: Was Israel the OT Church—are OT promises to God’s national people fulfilled in the church today? Or, is Mosaic Law binding on believers now—are twentieth-century Christians to obey the Ten Commandments, including sabbath observance? In this book, thirteen noted evangelical theologians discuss, fairly but clearly, the continuity/discontinuity debate in regard to six basic categories: theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises. Covering much more than the differences between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, this work of distinguished evangelical scholarship will fuel much profitable study and discussion.
  • Steve Gregg. Revelation: A Parallel Commentary Four Views(Revised and Updated). Gregg quotes from various sources representing the four primary ways that evangelicals interpret the book of Revelation: Historical, Idealist, Futurist, and Eclectic.
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Alan Hultberg, ed. Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulational, Prewrath, or Posttribulational. Craig Baising presents the “Pretribulational View”; Alan Hultberg presents the “Pre-Wrath View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Thomas Ice and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate The Question. Thomas Ice defends the “Futuristic View,” and Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Preterist View.”
  • Timothy Paul Jones. Four Views of the End Times. A brief overview of the four main ways scholars interpret Eschatology – pros and cons of each view.
  • Robert M. McKenzie. Identifying the Seed: An Examination and Evaluation of the Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. This book has one goal in mind, to try and bring greater understanding between two dedicated groups of Christians. Dispensationalists and Reformed Christians have a very different understanding of how God has worked in this world as well as how God will continue to work. There is a theological divide that has developed after many years of discussion and stems from a mixture of ignorance; misunderstanding and actual disagreement. Robert McKenzie seeks to examine what each side believes, fleshing out the differences and misunderstandings. He takes a look at the history of each system as well as their theological developments. The author seeks to be faithful to each system pointing out their strengths and weaknesses all the while citing the Scriptures that are used to support each side’s belief. It is hoped that with greater understanding the two groups will be able to engage in conversation with a clearer view of why a doctrine is believed and how the different doctrines build into the system. Whether you are a Dispensationalist, believe in Covenant theology or you aren’t quite sure if you fall in either camp this book can be tremendously helpful.
  • Benjamin L. Merkle. Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Outstanding resource that involves the author interacting with all the key players in the debate over this important debate.
  • Brent E. Parker and Richard J. Lucas, eds. Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). With contributions by Michael Horton and Stephen Wellum (Covenantal perspectives) and Darrel Bock and Mark Snoeberger (Dispensational perspectives).
  • C. Marvin Pate, ed. Four Views on The Book of Revelation. Kenneth Gentry defends the “Preterist View”; Sam Hamster defends the “Idealist View”; C. Marvin Pate defends the “Progressive Dispensationist View”; and Robert L. Thomas defends the “Classical Dispensationalist View.”
  • Richard R. Reiter, ed. Three Views on the Rapture. Paul D. Feinberg presents the Pretribulational View”; Gleason L. Archer presents the “Midtribulational View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Ron Rhodes. The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy: Understanding the Ongoing Controversies. Thoroughly covers the following debates in eschatology: (1) Should Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically? (2) Are Israel and the Church Distinct in Bible Prophecy? (3) What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times? (4) Which View of the Rapture is Correct? (5) How Are We To Understand the Book of Revelation? (6) How Are We To Understand The Antichrist? (7) Which view of the Millennium is Correct? (8) Is it Okay to set prophetic dates?
  • Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker, eds. Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Building on the foundation of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012), Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker have assembled a team of scholars who offer a fresh perspective regarding the interrelationship between the biblical covenants. Each chapter seeks to demonstrate how the covenants serve as the backbone to the grand narrative of Scripture. For example, New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner writes on the Sabbath command from the Old Testament and thinks through its applications to new covenant believers. Christopher Cowan wrestles with the warning passages of Scripture, texts which are often viewed by covenant theologians as evidence for a “mixed” view of the church. Jason DeRouchie provides a biblical theology of “seed” and demonstrates that the covenantal view is incorrect in some of its conclusions. Jason Meyer thinks through the role of law in both the old and new covenants. John Meade unpacks circumcision in the OT and how it is applied in the NT, providing further warrant to reject covenant theology’s link of circumcision with (infant) baptism. Oren Martin tackles the issue of Israel and land over against a dispensational reading, and Richard Lucas offers an exegetical analysis of Romans 9-11, arguing that it does not require a dispensational understanding. From issues of ecclesiology to the warning passages in Hebrews, this book carefully navigates a mediating path between the dominant theological systems of covenant theology and dispensationalism to offer the reader a better way to understand God’s one plan of redemption.

ETHICS – How Should I live Morally as a Christian?

  • Paul Chamberlain. Can We Be Good Without God? A Conversation about Truth, Morality, Culture & a Few Other Things That Matter. In Paul Chamberlain’s intriguing, inventive book, the pivotal questions of ethics and morality are explored by a cast of five: a Christian joins an atheist, a moral relativist, an evolutionist, and a secular humanist.
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. War: Four Christian Views. Have you ever wondered….. Should Christians ever go to war? If so, under what conditions? Here are four modern expressions of four classical views. Dr. Herman Hoyt explains the Biblical Nonresistance view. Christian Pacificism is discussed by Myron S. Augsburger. Arthur F. Holmes explains the Just War view. Preventive War is explained by Harold O.J. Brown.
  • Steven B. Cowan. Problems in Value Theory: An Introduction to Contemporary Debates. Problems in Value Theory takes a pro and con approach to central topics in aesthetics, ethics and political theory. Each chapter begins with a question: What Makes Actions Right or Wrong? Does Morality Depend on God? Do We Need Government? Contemporary philosophers with opposing viewpoints are then paired together to argue their position and raise problems with conflicting standpoints. Alongside an up-to-date introduction to a core philosophical stance, each contributor provides a critical response to their opponent and clear explanation of their view. Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter to guide further discussion. With chapters ranging from why the government should never wage war to what is art and does morality depend on God, this introduction covers questions lying at the heart of debates about what does and does not have value.
  • Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King, eds. Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media—often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for—and even a threat to—ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • H. Wayne House, ed. Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Divorce. No one likes it, but it doesn’t go away. Even among Christians, the divorce rate continues to climb. How should Christians approach this issue? May Christians ever legitimately divorce? If they divorce legitimately, may they remarry? Not everyone who appeals to Scripture agrees on how we should understand what it says about divorce and remarriage. In this book, four authors present their distinct perspectives. Carl Laney argues that the Bible indicates that marriages are always intended to be permanent, that there is never a need for divorce and that remarriage is never permissible after divorce. William Heth contends that while there are legitimate biblical grounds for divorce, there are no legitimate grounds for remarriage after divorce. Thomas Edgar defends the position that Scripture allows for divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery or desertion. Larry Richards holds that Scripture, while decrying divorce and the pain it causes, points to a God of grace who will not condemn those who divorce and remarry. Such a sensitive debate cannot remain abstract, so a case study accompanies each position, followed by critical responses from each essayist. The result is a thoughtful, helpful resource for all who wish to think biblically about a crucial issue confronting the church.
  • Douglas S. Huffman, ed. How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making. The three-views approach is an effective and succinct means of introducing theological subjects to readers of all levels. How Then Should We Choose? applies this proven format to the vital topic of decision making and the Christian’s search for the will of God. Garry Friesen of Multnomah Bible College, Henry and Richard Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International, and Gordon T. Smith of Regent College each contribute summaries of their perspectives on God’s will and their approaches to decision making. Friesen discusses the “wisdom” view, Henry and Richard Blackaby delineate the “specific will” view, and Smith champions the “relationship” view of God’s will. In an effort to make this discussion reader friendly, the contributors have applied their beliefs regarding God’s will and decision making to three practical, concrete topics: career, relationships, and stewardship. Using three hypothetical stories, the authors illustrate how their respective views would influence decisions in these common areas of concern.
  • Adam Lloyd Johnson, ed. A Debate on God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties? In 2018, William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate at North Carolina State University, addressing the question: “God and Morality: What is the best account of objective moral values and duties?” Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. This book includes the full debate, as well as endnotes with extended discussions that were not included in the debate. It also includes five chapters by other philosophers who have written substantive responses to the debate – J. P. Moreland, David Baggett, Mark Linville, Wes Morriston, and Michael Huemer. The book provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism and its dependence on, or independence from, theistic foundations. 
  • Nathan L. King and Robert K. Garcia. Is Goodness without God Good Enough?: A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media―often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for―and even a threat to―ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • Peter Kreeft. A Refutation Of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist. No issue is more fateful for civilization than moral relativism. History knows not one example of a successful society which repudiated moral absolutes. Yet most attacks on relativism have been either pragmatic (looking at its social consequences) or exhorting (preaching rather than proving), and philosophers’ arguments against it have been specialized, technical, and scholarly. In his typical unique writing style, Peter Kreeft lets an attractive, honest, and funny relativist interview a “Muslim fundamentalist” absolutist so as not to stack the dice personally for absolutism. In an engaging series of personal interviews, every conceivable argument the “sassy  feminist” reporter Libby gives against absolutism is simply and clearly refuted, and none of the many arguments for moral absolutism is refuted.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Best Things in Life: A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth the Good Life. What are the best things in life? Questions like that may boggle your mind. But they don’t boggle Socrates. The indomitable old Greek brings his unending questions to Desperate State University. With him come the same mind-opening and spirit-stretching challenge that disrupted ancient Athens. What is the purpose of education?; Why do we make love?; What good is money? Can computers think like people?; Is there a difference between Capitalism and Communism?; What is the greatest good?; Is belief in God like belief in Santa Claus?In twelve short, Socratic dialogues Peter Kreeft explodes contemporary values like success, power and pleasure. And he bursts the modern bubbles of agnosticism and subjectivism. He leaves you richer, wiser and more able to discern what the best things in life actually are. A supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Unaborted Socrates: A dramatic debate on the issues surrounding abortion. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • R. Keith Loftin, ed. God & Morality: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Is morality dependent upon belief in God? Is there more than one way for Christians to understand the nature of morality? Is there any agreement between Christians and atheists or agnostics on this heated issue? In God and Morality: Four Views four distinguished voices in moral philosophy ariticulate and defend their place in the current debate between naturalism and theism. Christian philosophers Keith Yandell and Mark Linville and two self-identified atheist/agnostics, Evan Fales and Michael Ruse, clearly and honestly represent their differing views on the nature of morality. Important differences as well as areas of overlap emerge as each contributor states their case, receives criticism from the others and responds. Of particular value for use as an academic text, these four essays and responses, covering the naturalist moral non-realist, naturalist moral realist, moral essentialist and moral particularist views, will foster critical thinking and contribute to the development of a well-informed position on this very important issue.
  • Mark L. Strauss, ed. Remarriage After Divorce in Today’s Church: 3 Views (Counterpoint: Church Life). A biblical and practical case for three main evangelical views on remarriage after divorce among born-again Christians, 27 percent have experienced divorce as compared to 24 percent in the general population. Yet no consensus exists among evangelicals on their views of remarriage, leaving many Christians confused. This single volume summarizes and explores three main evangelical views: “No Remarriage After Divorce”, presented by William A. Heth; “Remarriage After Adultery or Desertion”, presented by Gordon J. Wenham; and “Remarriage for a Variety of Reasons” presented by Craig S. Keener.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed.Christian Ethics: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Brad J. Kallenberg presents, “Virtue Ethics”; John Hare presents, “Divine Command Ethics”; Claire Peterson presents, “Natural Law Ethics”; and Peter Heltzel presents, “Prophetic Ethics.”

HAMARTIOLOGY – The Study of Sin

  • W. Paul Franks, ed. Explaining Evil: Four Views. In Explaining Evil four prominent philosophers, two theists and two non-theists, present their arguments for why evil exists. Taking a “position and response” format, in which one philosopher offers an account of evil and three others respond, this book guides readers through the advantages and limitations of various philosophical positions on evil, making it ideal for classroom use as well as individual study. Divided into four chapters, Explaining Evil covers Theistic Libertarianism (Richard Brian Davis), Theistic Compatibilism (Paul Helm), Atheistic Moral Realism (Michael Ruse) and Atheistic Moral Non-realism (Eric J. Wielenberg). It features topics including free will, theism, atheism, goodness, Calvinism, evolutionary ethics, and pain, and demonstrates some of the dominant models of thinking within contemporary philosophy of religion and ethics. Written in accessible prose and with an approachable structure, this book provides a clear and useful overview of the central issues of the philosophy of evil.
  • Chad Meister, ed. God and The Problem of Evil: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Evil abounds. And so do the attempts to understand God in the face of such evil. The problem of evil is a constant challenge to faith in God. How can we believe in a loving and powerful God given the existence of so much suffering in the world? Philosophers and theologians have addressed this problem countless times over the centuries. New explanations have been proposed in recent decades drawing on resources in Scripture, theology, philosophy, and science. God and the Problem of Evil stages a dialogue between the five key positions in the current debate: Phillip Cary: “A Classic View”; William Lane Craig: “A Molinist View”; William Hasker: “An Open Theist View”; Thomas Jay Oord: “An Essential Kenosis View”; and Stephen Wykstra: “A Skeptical Theism View.” According to the classic position, associated especially with the Augustinian tradition, God permits evil and suffering as part of the grand narrative of divine providence to bring about the redemption of creation. Molinism modifies the classic view by adding God’s middle knowledge to the picture, in which God has knowledge of what creatures would do in all possible worlds. Open theism rejects the determinism of the classic view in favor of an account of God as a risk-taker who does not know for sure what the future holds. Essential kenosis goes further in providing a comprehensive theodicy by arguing that God cannot control creatures and thus cannot unilaterally prevent evil. Skeptical theism rejects the attempt to provide a theodicy and instead argues that, if God exists, we should not expect to understand God’s purposes. Edited and with an introduction by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., God and the Problem of Evil hosts a generous and informative conversation on one of the most pressing issues in the Christian life.
  • J.B. Stump, ed. Original Sin and the Fall: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “What is this that you have done?” Throughout the church’s history, Christians have largely agreed that God’s good creation of humanity was marred by humanity’s sinful rebellion, resulting in our separation from God and requiring divine intervention in the saving work of Christ. But Christians have disagreed over many particular questions surrounding humanity’s fall, including the extent of original sin, the nature of the fall, the question of guilt, how to interpret the narratives from Genesis, and how these questions relate to our understanding of human origins and modern science. Views and Contributors: “An Augustinian-Reformed View” by Hans Madueme, Covenant College; “A Moderate Reformed View” by Oliver Crisp, The University of St. Andrews; “A Wesleyan View” by Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary; “An Eastern Orthodox View” by Andrew Louth, Durham University; and “A Reconceived View” by Tatha Wiley, University of St. Thomas.
  • Terry L. Wilder, ed. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin: Three Views of Romans 7. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin presents in point-counterpoint form three differing views of a Christian’s relationship with the law, flesh, and spirit as illustrated through Paul’s often-debated words in Romans 7. Stephen Chester (North Park Theological Seminary) writes “The Retrospective View of Romans 7: Paul’s Past in Present Perspective,” suggesting the apostle’s description of his struggle speaks more to his pre-Christian self. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) offers “The Flesh Without the Spirit: Romans 7 and Christian Experience,” perceiving Romans 7 as an accurate representation of what believers go through even after their conversion. Mark Seifrid (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), in “The Voice of the Law, the Cry of Lament, and the Shout of Thanksgiving,” asserts that Paul is not speaking of his past or his present Christian experience in Romans 7, but more fundamentally and simply about “the human being confronted with the Law.”Chad Owen Brand (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes a conclusion on the theological and pastoral implications of Romans 7.

HOMOSEXUALITY & LBGTQ & SEX – What Does The Bible Teach?

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views. One of the most pressing issues facing the evangelical church today involves dramatic shifts in our culture’s perceptions regarding human sexuality. While homosexuality and same-sex marriage have been at the forefront, there is a new cultural awareness of sexual diversity and gender dysphoria. The transgender phenomenon has become a high-profile battleground issue in the culture wars. This book offers a full-scale dialogue on transgender identities from across the Christian theological spectrum. It brings together contributors with expertise and platforms in the study of transgender identities to articulate and defend differing perspectives on this contested topic. After an introductory chapter surveys key historical moments and current issues, four views are presented by Owen Strachan, “Transition or Transformation? A Moral-Theological Exploration of Christianity and Gender Dysphoria”; Mark A. Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky, “The Complexities of Gender Identity: Toward a More Nuanced Response to the Transgender Experience”; Megan K. DeFranza, “Good News for Gender Minorities” and Justin Sabia-Tanis, “Holy Creation, Wholly Creation: God’s Intention for Gender Diversity.” The authors respond to one another’s views in a respectful manner, modeling thoughtful dialogue around a controversial theological issue. The book helps readers understand the spectrum of views among Christians and enables Christian communities to establish a context where conversations can safely be held.
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Two Views On Homosexuality, The Bible, and The Church (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). No issue is more divisive or more pressing for the church today than homosexuality. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church brings a fresh perspective to a well-worn debate. While Christian debates about homosexuality are most often dominated by biblical exegesis, this book seeks to give much-needed attention to the rich history of received Christian tradition, bringing the Bible into conversation with historical and systematic theology. To that end, both theologians and biblical scholars—well accomplished in their fields and conversant in issues of sexuality and gender—articulate and defend each of the two views: “Affirming View”: William Loader and Megan K. DeFranza; and the “Traditional View”: articulated by Wesley Hill and Stephen R. Holmes. Unique among most debates on homosexuality, this book presents a constructive dialogue between people who disagree on significant ethical and theological matters, and yet maintain a respectful and humanizing posture toward one another. Even as these scholars articulate pointed arguments for their position with academic rigor and depth, they do so cordially, clearly, and compassionately, without demeaning the other. The main essays are followed by exceptionally insightful responses and rejoinders that interact with their fellow essayists with convicted civility. Holding to a high view of Scripture, a commitment to the gospel and the church, and a love for people—especially those most affected by this topic—the contributors wrestle deeply with the Bible and theology, especially the prohibition texts, the role of procreation, gender complementarity, and pastoral accommodation. The book concludes with general editor Preston Sprinkle’s reflections on the future of discussions on faith and sexuality.
  • Dan O. Via and Robert J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. Few recent issues have sparked such debate in the churches as homosexuality, same-sex unions, and ordination of gays and lesbians. A key point of contention is the meaning and authority of the biblical witness. In this brief book, two New Testament scholars discuss the relevant biblical texts on the subject of homosexual behavior and orientation. Discussing both Old Testament and New Testament texts, each author also raises important interpretive and moral questions and then offers a response to the other’s main assertions. Chief questions examined by each include what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and homosexual behavior, the meaning of those texts in their cultural contexts, and the larger hermeneutical dilemma of what kind of authority the Bible’s teaching, if recoverable, has for Christians today. A thoughtful and irenic dialogue, this volume can facilitate reflection and discussion among church members on a vital and contentious issue in American church life.

MIRACLES – A Miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself

  • Wayne Grudem, ed. Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views. (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Robert B. Gaffin Jr. defends the “Cessationist View”; Robert L. Saucy defends the “Open But Cautious View”; C. Samuel Storms defends the “Third Wave View”; and Douglas A. Oss defends the “Pentecostal/Charismatic View.”

PHILOSOPHY – The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, & existence

  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Problems in Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Contemporary Debates. Problems in Epistemology and Metaphysics takes a pro and con approach to two central philosophical topics. Each chapter begins with a question: Can We Have Knowledge? How are Beliefs Justified? What is the mind? Contemporary philosophers with opposing viewpoints are then paired together to argue their position and raise problems with conflicting standpoints. Alongside an up-to-date introduction to a core philosophical stance, each contributor provides a critical response to their opponent and clear explanation of their view. Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter to guide further discussion. With chapters covering core questions surrounding religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, truth, being and reality, this is a comprehensive introduction to debates lying at the heart of what we know, how we know it and the nature of the world we live in.
  • Paul M. Gould, ed. Four Views On Christianity and Philosophy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Philosophy and Christianity make truth claims about many of the same things. They both claim to provide answers to the deep questions of life. But how are they related to one another? Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy introduces readers to four predominant views on the relationship between philosophy and the Christian faith and their implications for life. Each author identifies the propositional relation between philosophy and Christianity along with a section devoted to the implications for living a life devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. The contributors and views include: Graham Oppy—“Conflict: Philosophy Trumps Christianity”; K. Scott Oliphint—“Covenant: Christianity Trumps Philosophy”; Timothy McGrew—“Convergence: Philosophy Confirms Christianity”; and Paul Moser—“Conformation: Philosophy Reconceived Under Christianity.” General editors Paul M. Gould and Richard Davis explain the background to the discussion and provide some historical background in the introduction, as well as helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion.
  • Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem. Honored in 2006 as a “Year’s Best Book for Preachers” by Preaching magazine. Why a search for the soul? Many Christians assume that it is biblically faithful and theologically noncontroversial to speak of humans having a soul. Yet a wide range of biblical scholars are questioning whether we have correctly understood what the Bible means when it speaks of the “soul.” And contemporary neuroscience is laying more and more questions at the doorstep of the church, asking whether our human sense of self is intelligible on the basis of soul. But for thoughtful Christians, following science on this point looks like caving in to reductionism, while denying science gives off the odor of obscurantism. In Search of the Soul provides a rare opportunity to listen in as four Christian philosophers set forth their best arguments for their distinct views and then respond to each other. While each of these views calls for careful framing and patient exposition, they are labeled as follows: “Substance Dualism (Stewart Goetz); “Emergent Dualism” (William Hasker); “Nonreductive Physicalism” (Nancey Murphy); and “Constitution View of Persons” (Kevin Corcoran). Editors Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer introduce the debate by laying out the critical issues at stake, and wrap it up by considering the implications for the Christian life, particularly hospitality and forgiveness. This is a book of timely interest to philosophers, theologians, psychologists and pastors. Whatever conclusions readers may draw, they will find here an instructive and engaging discussion of a controversy that will not go away any time soon.
  • Anthony C. Thiselton. Approaching Philosophy of Religion: An introduction to key thinkers, concepts, methods and debates. The book opens with an engaging history of the subject, mapping the major landmarks and outlining the main issues of current debate. The rest of the book falls into three parts: Part 1: Approaches. Descriptions of the main approaches developed by scholars to study the subject, with lively case histories and working examples showing the approaches in action, and assessing their lasting value. Part 2: Concepts and Issues. Brief introductions to their origins and evolution, highlighting their significance in the work of major thinkers. Part 3 Key Terms. Concise explanations of all the words and phrases that readers need to know in order to fully grasp the subject.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed. Faith and Reason: Three Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). In Faith and Reason, Steve Wilkens edits a debate between three different understandings of the relationship between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy. The first viewpoint, “Faith and Philosophy in Tension,” articulated by Carl A. Raschke proposes faith and reason as hostile, exclusive opposites, each dangerous to the integrity of the other. The second, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” articulated by Alan G. Padget suggests that faithful Christians are called to make full use of their rational faculties to aid in the understanding and interpretation of what they believe by faith. In the third stance, “Thomistic Synthesis,” articulated by Craig A. Boyd natural reason acts as a handmaiden to theology by actively pointing people toward salvation and deeper knowledge of spiritual truths. Bringing together multiple views on the relationship between faith, philosophy and reason, this introduction to a timeless quandary will help you navigate, with rigor and joy, one of the most significant discussions of the Christian community. Steve Wilkins concludes the book with a helpful essay on how we can disagree Christianly.

POLITICS  – How A Christian Should Respond To and Be Involved in Society

  • Amy E. Black, ed. Five Views On The Church and Politics (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Thomas W. Heilke defends the “Anabaptist Separationist View”; Robert Benne defends the “Lutheran Paradoxical View”; Bruce L. Fields defends the “Black Church Prophetic View”; James K. A. Smith defends the “Reformed Transformationist View”; and Brian Benestad defends the “Catholic Synthetic View.”
  • P.C. Kemneny, ed. Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Abortion. Physician-assisted suicide. Same-sex marriages. Embryonic stem-cell research. Poverty. Crime. What is a faithful Christian response? The God of the Bible is unquestionably a God of justice. Yet Christians have had their differences as to how human government and the church should bring about a just social order. Although Christians share many deep and significant theological convictions, differences that threaten to divide them have often surrounded the matter of how the church collectively and Christians individually ought to engage the public square. What is the mission of the church? What is the purpose of human government? How ought they to be related to each other? How should social injustice be redressed? The five noted contributors to this volume answer these questions from within their distinctive Christian theological traditions, as well as responding to the other four positions. Through the presentations and ensuing dialogue we come to see more clearly what the differences are, where their positions overlap and why they diverge. The contributors and the positions taken include Clarke E. Cochran: “A Catholic Perspective”; Derek H. Davis: “A Classical Separation Perspective”; Ronald J. Sider: “An Anabaptist Perspective”; Corwin F. Smidt: “A Principled Pluralist Perspective”; and J. Philip Wogaman: “A Social Justice Perspective.”

PSYCHOLOGY – How To Counsel People From a Christian Perspective

  • Stephen P. Greggo and Timothy A. Sisemore, eds. Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches (Christian Association for Psychological Studies). What does authentic Christian counseling look like in practice? This volume explores how five major perspectives on the interface of Christianity and psychology would each actually be applied in a clinical setting. Respected experts associated with each of the perspectives depict how to assess, conceptualize, counsel and offer aftercare to Jake, a hypothetical client with a variety of complex issues. In each case the contributors seek to explain how theory can translate into real-life counseling scenarios. This book builds on the framework of Eric L. Johnson’s Psychology Christianity: Five Views. These include the Levels-of-Explanation Approach, the Integration Approach, the Christian Psychology Approach, the Transformational Approach and the Biblical Counseling Approach. While Counseling and Christianity can be used independently of Johnson’s volume, the two can also function as useful companions. Christians who counsel, both those in practice and those still in training, will be served by this volume as it strengthens the connections between theory and practice in relating our faith to the mental health disciplines. They will finally get an answer to their persistent but unanswered question: “What would that counseling view look like behind closed doors?”
  • Eric L. Johnson, ed. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How are Christians to understand and undertake the discipline of psychology? This question has been of keen interest (and sometimes concern) to Christians because of the importance we place on a correct understanding of human nature. Psychology can sometimes seem disconnected from, if not antithetical to, Christian perspectives on life. How are we to understand our Christian beliefs about persons in relation to secular psychological beliefs? This revised edition of a widely appreciated text now presents five models for understanding the relationship between psychology and Christianity. All the essays and responses have been reworked and updated with some new contributors including the addition of a new perspective, the transformative view from John Coe and Todd Hall (Biola University). Also found here is David Powlison (Westminster Theological Seminary) who offers the biblical counseling model. The levels-of-explanation model is advanced by David G. Myers (Hope College), while Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College) offers an entirely new chapter presenting the integration model. The Christian psychology model is put forth by Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University) now joined by Paul J. Watson (University of Tennesee, Chattanooga). Each of the contributors responds to the other essayists, noting points of agreement as well as problems they see. Eric L. Johnson provides a revised introduction that describes the history of Christians and psychology, as well as a conclusion that considers what might unite the five views and how a reader might evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of each view. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views has become a standard introductory textbook for students and professors of Christian psychology. This revision promises to keep it so.

SANCTIFICATION – How does one grow as a Christian?

  • Donald Alexander, ed. Christian Spirituality: Five Views On Christian Sanctification (Spectrum Multiview Series). How can we grow closer to God? Is there a secret to spiritual life? Do we need a second blessing? Is sanctification God’s work or ours? Is it instantaneous or is it a process? The nature of Christian spirituality has been widely debated throughout the history of the church. The doctrine of sanctification was one of the main fissures separating Luther from the Catholic Church. Even today different groups of Protestants disagree on how we draw closer to God. What distinguishes the different positions and what exactly is at stake in these recurring debates? To answer these questions Donald L. Alexander, professor of biblical theology at Bethel College, has brought together five scholars that represent each of the main historical Protestant traditions: Gerhard O. Forde on the “Lutheran View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson on the “Reformed View”; Laurence W. Wood on the “Wesleyan View”; Russell P. Spittler on the “Pentecostal View”; and E. Glenn Hinson on the “Contemplative View.” With an introduction by Alexander and responses to each of the main essays by the other contributors, this book provides a helpful and stimulating introduction to an important doctrine Christianity.
  • Chad Owen Brand, ed. Perspectives On Spirit Baptism: 5 Views. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism presents in counterpoint form the basic common beliefs on spirit baptism which have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter will be written by a prominent person from within each tradition—with specific guidelines dealing with the biblical, historical, and theological issues within each tradition. In addition, each writer will have the opportunity to give a brief response to the other traditions.
  • Bruce A. Demarest, ed. Four Views on Christian Spirituality (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The Views articulated in this book are as followed: “Orthodox Spirituality: A Quest For Transfigured Humanity” by Bradley Nassie; “Come To The Father: The Fact At The Foundation of Catholic Spirituality” by Scott Hahn; “The Progressive Face of Mainlain Protestant Spirituality” by Joseph Driskill; and “Evangelical Spirituality” by Evan Howard. The views presented are as following: “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit as the Promise of the Father: A Reformed Perspective” by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.; “Spirit Baptism: A Pentecostal Perspective” by Stanley M. Horton; “Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective” by Larry Hart; “A Wesleyan Perspective on Spirit Baptism” by H. Ray Dunning; and “Spirit Baptism: Catholic Perspective” by Ralph Del Colle.
  • Stanley N Gundry, ed. Five Views on Sanctification (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Christians generally recognize the need to live a holy, or sanctified, life. But they differ on what sanctification is and how it is achieved. Five Views on Sanctification brings together in one easy-to-understand volume five major Protestant views on sanctification. Writing from a solid evangelical stance, each author describes and defends his own understanding of the doctrine, and responds as well to the views of the other authors. This book addresses such practical questions as: How does one achieve sanctification in this life? How much success in sanctification is possible? Is a crisis experience following one’s conversion normal―or necessary? If so, what kind of experience, and how is it verified?  The following views are presented and defended: “The Wesleyan View” by Melvin E. Dieter; “The Reformed View” by Anthony A. Hoekema; “The Pentecostal View” by Stanley M. Horton; “The Keswick View” by J. Roberson McQuilkin; and “The Augustinian-Dispensational View” by John F. Walvoord.
  • Alan P. Stanley, ed. Four Views on The Role of Works at the Final Judgement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).Views Presented: “Christians Will Be Judged According To Their Works At The Rewards Judgement, But Not The Final Judgement” by Robert N. Wilkin; “Justification Apart From And By Works: At The Final Judgment Works Will Confirm Justification” by Thomas R. Schreiner; “If Paul Could Believe Both In Justification By Faith And Judgment According To Works, Why Should That Be A Problem For Us?” by James D.G. Dunn; and “A Catholic Perspective: Our Works Are Meritorious At The Final Judgment Because Of Our Union With Christ By Grace” by Michael P. Barber.

SCIENCE – Science and the Bible

  • Michael J. Behe and T.D. Singh. God, Intelligent Design and Fine-Tuning: A Dialogue between T. D. Singh and Michael J. Behe. Is God no longer necessary in a world that is increasingly influenced by a scientific temper? Or, on the contrary, have the findings of modern sciences forced us to approach the question of the existence of God in new ways? The scientific enterprise has gifted us the ability to examine and contemplate deeply the mysterious and beautiful order behind nature. Over the past four decades modern biochemistry has uncovered the secrets of cells and has revealed us the marvelous design even at the molecular level. Advancements in science have also shown us some of the precise laws and unique fundamental constants in the universe. All these facts and observations point to a fine-tuned and specially designed universe with a purpose by a Supreme Being or God. As one journey through the newly discovered marvels of the cosmos and life discussed in this volume, one will be compelled to reexamine his opinion concerning the origins, evolution and essence of this wonderful world in which we live.
  • Ardel B. Caneday, ed. Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Denis O. Lamoureus articulates the “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View”; John H. Walton articulates “A Historical Adam: Archetypal Creation View”; C. John Collins articulates “A Historical Adam: Old-Earth Creation View”; and William D. Barrick articulates “A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View.”
  • Richard F. Carlson, ed. Science & Christianity: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Wayne Frair and Gary D. Patterson argue for “Creationism: An Inerrant Bible and Effective Science View”; Jean Pond argues for ”Independence: Mutual Humility in the Relationship Between Science and Christian Theology View”; Stephen C. Meyer argues for a “Qualified Agreement: Modern Science and the Return of the God Hypothesis View”; and Howard J. Van Till articulates the view called “Partnership: Science and Theology As Partners.”
  • Paul Copan and Christopher L. Reese, eds. Three Views on Christianity and Science. (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Michael Ruse writes the “Independence View”; Alister McGrath writes the “Dialogue View”; and Bruce Gordon writes the “Constrained Integration View.”
  • William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse. Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. In this book, first published in 2004, William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins – a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been ‘design’. Is the appearance of design in organisms (as exhibited in their functional complexity) the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry? Four main positions have emerged in response to these questions: Darwinism, self-organization, theistic evolution, and intelligent design. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate.
  • David G. Hagopian, ed. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall argue for “The 24-Hour View”; Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer argue for the “Day-Age View”; and Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline argue for “The Framework View.”
  • Preston Jones, ed. Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism Christianity. Greg Graffin is frontman, singer and songwriter for the punk band Bad Religion. He also happens to have a Ph.D. in zoology and wrote his dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism. Preston Jones is a history professor at a Christian college and a fan of Bad Religion’s music. One day, on a whim, Preston sent Greg an appreciative e-mail. That was the start of an extraordinary correspondence. For several months, Preston and Greg sent e-mails back and forth on big topics like God, religion, knowledge, evil, evolution, biology, destiny and the nature of reality. Preston believes in God; Greg sees insufficient evidence for God’s existence. Over the course of their friendly debate, they tackle such cosmic questions as: Is religion rational or irrational? Does morality require belief in God? Do people only believe in God because they are genetically predisposed toward religion? How do you make sense of suffering in the world? Is this universe all there is? And what does it all matter? In this engaging book, Preston and Greg’s actual e-mail correspondence is reproduced, along with bonus materials that provide additional background and context. Each makes his case for why he thinks his worldview is more compelling and explanatory. While they find some places to agree, neither one convinces the other. They can’t both be right. So which worldview is more plausible? You decide.
  • Kenneth Keathley, J.B. Stump and Joe Aguirre, eds. Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins With Reason To Believe and Biologos. Various issues are addressed from several scholars belonging to the Two Largest Old Earth organizations: Reason to Believe (Hugh Ross, founder) and Biologos (Francis Collins, founder). Note: there is very little discussion of a “Young Earth” position in this book.
  • J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Thirty-One chapters by top Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians who critique the primary sources and articulators of Theistic Evolution in the 20th-21st Century – a landmark book – approximately 1000 pages of material!
  • Alister McGrath, John Wilson, et. al. The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials). For centuries, Christians have argued exactly what God did “in the beginning.” If this were only a question of science, it would not be so contentious. But theology and science shape one another, and there are few easy answers. This key collection of essays presents the current state of the debate, showing how faithful evangelicals have come to their respective views, and what is at stake for the church. Contents: Chapter 1: The Search for the Historical Adam – Richard N. Ostling; Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Scientists: A Young-Earth Creationist and an Evolutionary Creationist – Tim Stafford; Chapter 3: Augustine’s Origin of Species: How the Great Theologian Might Weigh In on the Darwin Debate – Alister McGrath; Chapter 4: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Furor Over Intelligent Design – Nancy Pearcey; Chapter 5: God by the Numbers: Math and the Theology of Origins – Charles Edward White; Chapter 6: What Good is Stardust?: The Remarkably Equipped Universe – Howard J. Van Till; Chapter 7: Your Darwin Is Too Large: Evolution’s Exaggerated Significance for Theology – John Wilson; Chapter 8: Living with the Darwin Fish: Another ‘Missing Link’ Won’t Destroy My Faith – Stan Guthrie; Chapter 9: The Evolution of Darwin: The Scientist’s Problem with God – Dinesh D’Souza; and Chapter 10: Science in Wonderland: Perspective (250 Million Years’ Worth) on the Evolution Controversy – John Wilson 
  • J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, eds. Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds defend the view of “Young Earth Creationism”; Robert C. Newman defends the view of  “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”; and Howard J. Van Till defends the view called “Theistic Evolution.”
  • Gerald Rau. Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning. The debate over evolution and creation has raged for decades and shows no signs of letting up. Many promote one view as the only reasonable solution. But what are the main viewpoints, and just why do they disagree? In the midst of an increasingly intense dispute, Gerald Rau answers the important questions with level-headed clarity and evenhanded analysis. Rau lays out six models of origins, ranging from naturalistic evolution to young-earth creation. He shows how each model presupposes an underlying philosophy that adherents take on faith. With the sensitivity of a seasoned educator, Rau demonstrates how each model assesses the scientific evidence in relation to four different kinds of origins: the universe, life, species and humans. In an age of specialists, Rau sees the big picture. Mapping the Origins Debate cuts through the cacophony and the complexity to provide a lucid and charitable contribution to the conversation.
  • James Stump, ed. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design  (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Ken Ham’s view is “Young Earth Creationism”; Hugh Ross gives the “Old Earth (Progressive) Creationism View”; Deborah B. Haarsma articulates the “Evolutionary Creation View”; and Stephen C. Meyer presents the “intelligent Design View.”
  • Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk. The Fool and the Heretic: How Two Scientists Moved Beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue About Creation and Evolution. The Fool and the Heretic is a deeply personal story told by two respected scientists who hold opposing views on the topic of origins, share a common faith in Jesus Christ, and began a sometimes-painful journey to explore how they can remain in Christian fellowship when each thinks the other is harming the church. To some in the church, anyone who accepts the theory of evolution has rejected biblical teaching and is therefore thought of as a heretic. To many outside the church, as well as a growing number of evangelicals, anyone who accepts the view that God created the Earth in six days a few thousand years ago must be poorly educated and ignorant – a fool. Todd Wood and Darrel Falk know what it’s like to be thought of, respectively, as a fool and a heretic. This audiobook shares their pain in wearing those labels, but more important, provides a model for how faithful Christians can hold opposing views on deeply divisive issues yet grow deeper in their relationship to each other and to God.

SOTERIOLOGY – The Study of Salvation in the Bible

  • David Basinger and Randall Basinger, eds. Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). If God is in control, are people really free? This question has bothered Christians for centuries. And answers have covered a wide spectrum. Today Christians still disagree. Those who emphasize human freedom view it as a reflection of God’s self-limited power. Others look at human freedom in the order of God’s overall control. David and Randall Basinger have put this age-old question to four scholars trained in theology and philosophy. John Feinberg of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Norman Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary focus on God’s specific sovereignty. Bruce Reichenbach of Augsburg College and Clark Pinnock of McMaster Divinity College insist that God must limit his control to ensure our freedom. Each writer argues for his perspective and applies his theory to two practical case studies. Then the other writers respond to each of the major essays, exposing what they see as fallacies and hidden assumptions.
  • Herbert W. Bateman IV., ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews. Using the popular four-views format, this volume explores the meaning of the five warning passages in the book of Hebrews to both the original readers and us today. Each of the four New Testament scholars present and defend their view and critique the view of their interlocutors. This unique volume will help readers better understand some of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. Contributors include Grant R. Osborne, Buist M. Fanning, Gareth L. Cockerill, and Randall C. Gleason.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Gregory A. Boyd defends the view called “Open-Theism”; David Hunt defends “The Simple Foreknowledge View”; William Land Craig defends “The Middle-Knowledge View”; and Paul Helm defends the “Augustinian-Calvinist View.”
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Justification: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). When Paul wrote these words he seemed confident he had made himself clear. But for centuries the Pauline doctrine of justification has been a classic point of interpretation and debate in Christian exegesis and theology. And while in recent decades there have been moments of hopeful convergence among the various traditions of the Western church, the fine print often reveals more facets and distinctions than ever before. This volume focuses on five views of justification and calls on representative proponents to set forth their case and then respond to each other. The five views are: “Traditional Reformed” defended by Michael S. Horton;  “Progressive Reformed” by Michael F. Bird; “The New Perspective” by James D. G. Dunn;  “Deification, or Theosis” by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen; and  “Roman Catholic” by Gerald O. Collins and Oliver Rafferty. In addition, editors James Beilby, Paul R. Eddy and Steven E. Enderlein provide an extensive introduction to the issues informing this important debate. This distinguished forum of biblical interpreters and theologians offers a lively and informative engagement with the biblical, historical and contemporary understandings of justification. Justification: Five Views is not only a fascinating probe into Paul?s meaning, it is also a case book in theological method.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). A long history of biblical exegesis and theological reflection has shaped our understanding of the atonement today. The more prominent highlights of this history have acquired familiar names for the household of faith: Christus Victor, penal substitutionary, subjective, and governmental. Recently the penal substitutionary view, and particularly its misappropriations, has been critiqued, and a lively debate has taken hold within evangelicalism. This book offers a “panel” discussion of four views of atonement maintained by four evangelical scholars. The proponents and their views are: Gregory A. Boyd: “Christus Victor View”; Joel B. Green: “Kaleidescopic View”; Bruce R. Reichenbach: “Healing View”; and Thomas R. Schreiner: “Penal Substitutionary View.” Following an introduction written by the editors, each participant first puts forth the case for their view. Each view is followed by responses from the other three participants, noting points of agreement as well as disagreement. This is a book that will help Christians understand the issues, grasp the differences and proceed toward a clearer articulation of their understanding of the atonement.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Election: Five Views. Perspectives on Election presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on the doctrine of spiritual election (for example, predestination) that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. Despite the focus upon a topic that divides many people, editor Chad Brand says, “The goal of this book is to add clarity to the discussion and to further the discussion, insofar as it is possible, in an amiable manner.” Contributors and their views are the following: “Divine Election to Salvation” presented by Bruce A. Ware; “The Classical Arminian View of Election” by Jack W. Cottrell; “A Consistent Supralapsarian Perspective on Election” presented by RobertL. Reymond; “Universal Reconciliation and the Inclusive Nature of Election” presented by Thomas B. Talbot; and “Divine Election as Corporate, Open, and Vocational” by Clark Pinnock.
  • Gabriel J. Fackre, ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?  Three Views on The Destiny of the Unevangelized (Spectrum Multiview Series). What is the fate of those who die never hearing the gospel? Do Hindus, Jews, agnostics and others who do not profess faith in Christ really suffer damnation after death? These and similar questions have long been contemplated by people from every religious persuasion and every walk of life. But in a culture of increasing diversity and growing doubt in the existence of “objective truth,” it seems ever more pressing. In this book three scholars present the span of evangelical conviction on the destiny of the unevangelized. Ronald Nash argues the restrictivist position, that receptive knowledge of Jesus Christ in this life is necessary to salvation. Gabriel Fackre advocates divine perseverance, with the expectation that those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. And John Sanders sets forth the inclusivist case–asserting that though God saves people only through the work of Jesus Christ, some may be saved even if they do not know about Christ. As each scholar presents his own case and responds to strengths and weaknesses of differing positions, readers are treated to a lively and informative debate. What About Those Who Have Never Heard? is a truly helpful book on one of today’s–and every day’s–most crucial questions.
  • Dave Hunt and James White. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. A centuries-old belief system is put to the test as two prominent authors examine and debate the subject of Calvinism from opposing viewpoints. James White, author of The Potter’s Freedom, takes the Calvinist position. Dave Hunt, author of What Love Is This, opposes him. The exchange is lively and at times intense as these two articulate men wrestle over what the Scriptures tell us about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. This thought-provoking, challenging book provides potent responses to the most frequently asked questions about Calvinism.
  • Adam J. Johnson, ed. Five Views on the Extent of the Atonement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). For whom did Christ die? Who may be saved? are questions of perennial interest and importance for the Christian faith. In a familiar Counterpoints format, this book explores the question of the extent of Christ’s atonement, going beyond simple Reformed vs. non-Reformed understandings. This volume elevates the conversation to a broader plane, including contributors who represent the breadth of Christian tradition: “Eastern Orthodox”: expounded by Andrew Louth; “Roman Catholic”: expounded by Matthew Levering; “Traditional Reformed”: expounded by Michael Horton; “Wesleyan”: expounded by Fred Sanders; and “Barthian Universalism”: expounded by Tom Greggs.
  • R.T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen. The Christian and the Pharisee: Two Outspoken Religious Leaders Debate the Road to Heaven. The book reproduces a candid exchange of letters between two leading religious figures: an evangelical preacher and a senior Jewish rabbi. This groundbreaking publication is a rare opportunity to read the heartfelt correspondence of two prolific and acclaimed theologians, as they both seek to vigorously defend their own beliefs and allow themselves to be challenged by the claims of the other. As the discussion continues we see mutual respect grow and a strong friendship forged before the relationship is inevitably tested as they encounter points of seemingly irreconcilable differences. Though there are issues and beliefs which separate the two theological camps, this book shows how they share enough to not only get along, but form strong alliances.
  • John D. Laing, Kirk R. MacGregor, Greg Welty, et al. Calvinism and Middle Knowledge: A Conversation. Calvinism and Middle Knowledge is an anthology of essays that moves the discussion of Molinism/middle knowledge out of the philosophical arena, where it has almost exclusively remained, and into the broader theological community. In particular, it sparks a conversation between Calvinists and Molinists regarding the fruitfulness or deficiencies of middle knowledge and the feasibility or infeasibility of Calvinist use of middle knowledge without acceptance of libertarian human freedom. To this end, nine distinguished experts address such topics as the history of the doctrine of middle knowledge, the potential role of Molinism in discussions of evolution and intelligent design, Calvinist concerns with Molinism, and Calvinist appropriation of middle knowledge. This book empowers theologians, historians, biblical scholars, and pastors to join the ongoing conversation and to judge for themselves what explanatory role middle knowledge may or may not play in accounts of providence and practical theology.
  • Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, eds. Four Views On Salvation In A Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). John Hick proposes the “Pluralist View”; Clark Pinnock proposes the “Inclusivist View”; Alister McGrath proposes “A Particularist View: A Post-Enlightenment Approach”; and R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips present “A Particularist View: An Evidentialist Approach.”
  • Kirk R. MacGregor and Kevaughn Mattis, eds. Perspectives on Eternal Security: Biblical, Historical, and Philosophical Perspectives. Eternal security, or personal assurance of final salvation, constitutes the single most important matter of practical theology in the Christian tradition. For the past twenty centuries, no other doctrine has exerted such a direct impact on the lives of lay Christians, driving their daily actions, guiding their permanent choices, and shaping their psychology. From the New Testament period onward, a diversity of views on biblical interpretation, anthropology, and divine sovereignty have produced numerous models of eternal security. However, due to the early modern fracturing of Protestant thought along Reformed and Arminian lines, today most evangelicals equate eternal security with Calvin’s perseverance of the saints. In an ecumenical vein, this collection of essays aims to remedy the knowledge gap by bringing a breadth of biblical, historical, and philosophical perspectives to bear on the question of eternal security. These essays comprise the first print anthology from the online theological journal Testamentum Imperium, an international forum founded and edited by Kevaughn Mattis featuring scores of first-rate articles from Christian thinkers worldwide on the topic of eternal security. This book therefore analyzes Calvin’s model of perseverance alongside views on eternal security ranging historically from Clement of Rome to contemporary developments in philosophical theology and process theology. Furthermore, this book explores and strengthens the biblical roots of eternal security through an illuminating host of thematic studies on whole books and exegetical studies on particular passages. Hence this volume will profit all who are interested in the scriptural foundations and historical outworkings of eternal security.
  • Andrew David Naselli and Mark A. Snoeberger, eds. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement presents a point-counterpoint exchange concerning God’s intention in sending Christ to die on the cross. All three contributors recognize a substitutionary element in the atoning work of Christ, but disagree over the nature and objects of that substitution. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work secured the redemption of his elect alone. While infinite in value, Christ’s death was intended for and applied strictly to those whom the Father had elected unconditionally in eternity past. John Hammett (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work had multiple intentions. Of these intentions two rise to the fore: (1) the intention to accomplish atonement for God’s elect and (2) the intention to provide atonement for all mankind. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) argues that Christ’s atoning work provided atonement generally for all mankind. The application of that atoning work is conditioned, however, on each person’s willingness to receive it.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Four Views On Eternal Security (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Does the Bible support the concept of “once saved, always saved,” or can a person lose his or her salvation? How do the Scriptures portray the complex interplay between grace and free will? These and related questions are explored from different angles in this thought-provoking Counterpoints volume. The contributors each state their case for one of four prominent views on eternal security: “Classical Calvinist” (Michael Horton), “Moderate Calvinist” (Norman L. Geisler), “Reformed Arminian” (Stephen M. Ashby),  and “Wesleyan Arminian” (Steve Harper). In keeping with the forum approach of the Counterpoints series, each view is first presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended. This fair and respectful approach allows you to weigh for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of the different doctrinal stances. By furnishing you with scholarly and thoughtful perspectives on the topic of eternal security, this book helps you sift through opposing views to arrive at your own informed conclusions. 
  • James R. White. The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free. Norman L. Geisler’s Chosen but Free sparked a firestorm of controversy when he labeled Calvinism “theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” White steps into the breach with his cogent response. His systematic refutation of Geisler’s argument will help you understand what the Reformed faith really teaches about divine election and how Reformed thought conforms to the gospel.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE – How to Practically Do Battle with the Enemy 

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, editors. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Walter Wink, “The World Systems Model”; David Powlison, “The Classical Model”; Greg Boyd, “The Ground-Level Deliverance Model”; C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood, “The Strategic-Level Deliverance Model.”

THEOLOGICAL METHOD – How to Do Theology and Communal Expressions of It

  • Paul L. Allen. Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides for the Perplexed). Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed is a book that introduces the reader to the practice of doing theology. It provides a historical survey of key figures and concepts that bear on an understanding of difficult methodological issues in Christian theology. Beginning with a description of philosophical themes that affect the way theology is done today, it summarizes the various theological methods deployed by theologians and churches over two millennia of Christian thought. The book uncovers patterns in the theological task of relating biblical texts with beliefs and doctrines, according to historically conditioned theological and cultural priorities. The book’s highlights include a discussion of Augustine’s epoch-making De doctrina Christiana. Also receiving close attention is the relationship between philosophy and theology during the Middle Ages, the meaning of sola scriptura for the Protestant Reformers, the methods of key interpreters of doctrine in the nineteenth century and the theological priorities of the ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ movement.
  • Kenneth Berding, ed. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Walter C. Kaiser defends the view: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents”; Darrel L. Bock defends the view: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents”; and Peter Enns defends the view: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal. 
  • Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Across The Spectrum: Understanding Issues In Evangelical Theology (Second Edition). This new edition of a popular text presents an accessible yet comprehensive primer that helps readers understand the breadth of viewpoints on major issues in evangelical theology, with chapters using the popular three- or four-views book format. The authors carefully examine thirty-four positions taken by evangelical scholars on seventeen seminal issues. They lay out the biblical, theological, and philosophical arguments for each position in point-counterpoint fashion and discuss possible objections. The second edition retains the helpful features of the first edition–end-of-chapter “For Further Reading” sections and an extensive glossary–and adds an appendix that addresses thirteen peripheral issues in contemporary evangelicalism.
  • Ronnie Campbell, ed. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views (Counterpoints Theology and Life).During a time of global conflict, the theological question of whether Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God carries political baggage. Is the God of ISIS the same as the God of Israel? Do Sunni Muslims and Protestant Christians pray to the same Creator and Sustainer of the universe? In this Counterpoints volume, edited by Ronnie P. Campbell, Jr., and Christopher Gnanakan, five leading scholars present the main religious perspectives on this question, demonstrating how to think carefully about an issue where opinions differ and confusion abounds. They examine related subtopics such as the difference between God being referentially the same and essentially the same, what “the same” means when referring to God, the significance of the Trinity in this discussion, whether religious inclusivism is inferred by certain understandings of God’s sameness, and the appropriateness of interfaith worship.The four main views, along with the scholars presenting them, are: “All Worship the Same God: Religious Pluralist View” presented by Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb, Jr.; “All Worship the Same God: Referring to the Same God View” presented by Francis J. Beckwith; “Jews and Christians Worship the Same God: Shared Revelation View” presented by  Gerald R. McDermott; and “None Worship the Same God: Different Conceptions View” presented by Jerry L. Walls) Additionally, essays by Joseph Cumming and David W. Shenk explore the implications of this question specifically for Christians wanting to minister among and build relationships with Muslims. Cumming stresses that finding common ground is key, while Shenk advocates for a respectful focus on differences.
  • John Jefferson Davis. Handbook of Basic Bible Texts: Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine & Theology. This volume provides the complete text of key Scripture passages that form the basis for theological study. The text used is the highly readable and modern New International Version. The verses listed are grouped by the classical categories of systematic theology (e.g., God, Christ, Salvation); on disputed points, verses from which the major theological views derive are given. Footnotes provide clarification and brief commentary on verses as appropriate. This work is intended to assist the theological student who might not take the time to look up the verses cited in systematic theologies, but it will also be useful to anyone seeking to better understand the major themes of Scripture.
  • Louis Goldberg, ed. How Jewish Is Christianity? 2 Views On The Messianic Movement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Diverse perspectives about the messianic movement ― from six contributors. Are Messianic congregations necessary or should Jewish believers be incorporated into the Gentile church? This is the topic of the latest volume in the Counterpoints series. The question of how Christian Jews relate their Jewish practices and customs to the church has been an issue within Christianity since the first century. Contemporary contributors who have lived and wrestled with this issue present informed arguments and counter-arguments. The book concludes with a chapter on the future for Messianic Jews and a directory of messianic movement organizations. Contributors include: John Fischer (ThD, California Graduate School of Theology, PhD, University of South Florida) is a rabbi of Congregation Ohr Chadash and Chairman of Judaic Studies at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum (ThM, PhD, New York University) has served with the Chosen People Ministries and Christian Jew Foundation in the past and is now the founder and director of Ariel Ministries. Gershon Nerel (PhD, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) has served as “Israel Secretary” for the International Messianic Jewish Alliance and has also been a member of the executive committee for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel. David Stern (PhD, MDiv) is the translator of the Jewish New Testament from Greek to English to express its Jewishness; his version of the Tanak is the Complete Jewish Bible. Will Varner (EdD, Temple University) servers as professor of biblical studies at the Master’s College, CA, and the director of the Israel Bible Extension campus of this college in Israel.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Five Views On Law and Gospel (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). “The Non-Theonomic View” is presented by Willem A. VanGemeren; “The Theonomic Reformed View” is presented by Greg L. Bahnsen; “The Law As God’s Gracious Guidance For The Promotion of Holiness View” is presented by Walter C. Kaiser; “A Dispensational View” is presented by Wayne G. Strickland; and “A Modified Lutheran View” is presented by Douglas J. Moo.
  • Collin Hansen and Andrew David Naselli, eds. Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following views are presented in this dialogue: “Fundamentalism” by Kevin T. Bauder; “Confessional Evangelicalism” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Generic Evangelicalism” by John G. Stackhuse Jr.; and “Postconservative Evangelicalism” by Roger E. Olson.
  • Glenn R. Kreider and Michael J. Svigel. A Practical Primer on Theological Method: Table Manners for Discussing God, His Works, and His Ways. Around a table sit men and women with distinct roles: the interpreter, the theologian, the virtuous, the philosopher, the scientist, the artist, the minister, and the historian. Each is ready to engage in a passionate discussion centered on God, his works, and his ways. Regardless of which role you play at the same table, you’re invited. You simply need to pull up a chair and join the conversation. But how? What do you say when you take your seat? Where do you start? What are the “rules” of the dialogue? A Practical Primer on Theological Method will help you answer these questions. This primer is not only a “how-to” manual for doing theology, but a handbook of etiquette for doctrinal discussions with other believers. This popular-level introductory text presents the proper manner, mode, and means of engaging fruitfully in theology.
  • Gordon R. Lewis. Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook. The great Christian doctrines are worth thinking through for ourselves. That’s why Gordon Lewis has provided this concise and complete survey of the major truths of the Christian faith. But rather than just telling us what he has discovered in Scripture, he offers a theological workbook that helps us explore the evidence itself and to draw our own conclusions. He has organized the material around the main themes of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, humanity, creation, the church, and the end times. This unique text has been used by students of the Bible over the last three decades in the classroom, in the home and in the church. Its enduring quality continues to make it a valuable tool for all who want to develop a systematic theology for themselves.
  • Erwin W. Lutzer. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historical Doctrines That Separate Christians. Lutzer examines various controversies that exist within the broad spectrum of Christianity, presenting the historical background of the issue and the biblical understanding of the doctrine. Chapters include “Predestination or Free Will?”; “Why Can’t We Agree about Baptism”?; and “Justification by Faith.”
  • Gary T, Meadors, ed. Four Views on Moving Beyond The Bible To Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following models of methods are proposed: “A Principlizing Model” by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.; “A Redemptive-Historical Model” by Daniel M. Doriani; “A Drama of Redemption Model” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “A Redemptive-Movement Model” by William J. Webb.
  • Stanley E. Porter, ed. Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How should one approach the task of theology? The question of methodology is increasingly one of interest among theologians, who recognize that the very manner in which we approach theology informs both the questions we ask and the conclusions we reach. This volume in IVP’s Spectrum Multiview series brings together five evangelical theologians with distinctly different approaches to the theological task. After presenting the approaches―which include appeals to Scripture, context, missions, interdisciplinary studies, and dogmatics―each contributor responds to the other views. Emerging from this theological conversation is an awareness of our methodological commitments and the benefits that each approach can bring to the theological task. Contributors:Sung Wook Chung, “Bible Doctines Conservative Theology: Codifying God’s Word”;  John R. Franke, “Missional Theology: Living God’s Love”; Telford C. Work, “An Interdisciplinary Theology Response”; Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo, “A Contextual Theology Response”; and Paul Louis Metzger, “A Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology Response.”
  • James Stamoolis, ed. Three Views On Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Bradley Nassif answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Yes”; Michael Horton answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; Vladimir Berzonsky answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; George Hancock-Stefan answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe”; And Edward Rommen answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe.”
  • Mary M. Veeneman. Introducing Theological Method: A Survey of Contemporary Theologians and Approaches. Sound theological method is a necessary prerequisite for good theological work. This accessible introduction surveys contemporary theological methodology by presenting leading thinkers of the 20th and 21st centuries as models. The book presents the strengths and weaknesses in each of the major options. Rather than favoring one specific position, it helps students of theology think critically so they can understand and develop their own theological method.

THEOLOGY PROPER – The Study of God: 

The Trinity, His Nature, Character & Activity in Our World 

  • John M. DePoe and Tyler Dalton McNabb. Debating Christian Religious Epistemology: An Introduction to Five Views on the Knowledge of God. Debating Christian Religious Epistemology introduces core questions in the philosophy of religion by bringing five competing viewpoints on the knowledge of God into critical dialogue with one another. Each chapter introduces an epistemic viewpoint, providing an overview of its main arguments and explaining why it justifies belief. The validity of that viewpoint is then explored and tested in a critical response from an expert in an opposing tradition. Featuring a wide range of different philosophical positions, traditions and methods, this introduction: Covers classical evidentialism, phenomenal conservatism, proper functionalism, covenantal epistemology and traditions-based perspectivalism; Draws on MacIntyre’s account of rationality and ideas from the Analytic and Conservatism traditions; Addresses issues in social epistemology; and Considers the role of religious experience and religious texts. Packed with lively debates, this is an ideal starting point for anyone interested in understanding the major positions in contemporary religious epistemology and how religious concepts and practices relate to belief and knowledge.
  • Dennis Jowers, ed. Four Views on Divine Providence (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Kjoss Helseth propounds the view that “God Causes All Things”; William Lane Craig propounds the view that “God Directs All Things”; Ron Highfield propounds the view that “God Controls By Liberating”; and Gregory A. Boyd propounds that “God Limits Control.”
  • Gregory E. Ganssle, ed. God & Time: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Paul Helm proclaims the “Divine Timeless Eternity View”; Alan G. Padgett proclaims the “Eternity As Relative Timelessness View”; William Lane Craig proclaims the “Timelessness & Omnitemporality View”; and Nicholas Wolterstorff proclaims the “Unqualified Divine Temporality View.”
  • Stephen R. Holmes, ed. Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The doctrine of the Trinity stands front and center of the Christian faith and its articulation. After a sustained drought of trinitarian engagement, the doctrine of the Trinity has increasingly resurged to the forefront of Evangelical confession. The second half of the twentieth century, however, saw a different kind of trinitarian theology developing, giving way to what has commonly been referred to as the “social Trinity.” Social—or better, relational—trinitarianism has garnered a steady reaction from those holding to a classical doctrine of the Trinity, prompting a more careful and thorough re-reading of sources and bringing about not only a much more coherent view of early trinitarian development but also a strong critique of relational trinitarian offerings. Yet confusion remains. As Evangelicals get better at articulating the doctrine of the Trinity, and as the current and next generation of believers in various Christian traditions seek to be more trinitarian, the way forward for trinitarian theology has to choose between the relational and classical model, both being legitimate options.In this volume, leading contributors—one evangelical and one mainline/catholic representing each view—establish their models and approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity, each highlighting the strengths of his view in order to argue how it best reflects the orthodox perspective. In order to facilitate a genuine debate and to make sure that the key issues are teased out, each contributor addresses the same questions regarding their trinitarian methodology, doctrine, and its implications. Contributors include: Stephen R. Holmes; Paul D. Molnar; Thomas H. McCall; and Paul S. Fiddes.
  • John W. Loftus and Randal Rauser. God or Godless? One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions. In this unique book, atheist John Loftus and theist Randal Rauser engage in twenty short debates that consider Christianity, the existence of God, and unbelief from a variety of angles. Each concise debate centers on a proposition to be resolved, with either John or Randal arguing in the affirmative and the opponent the negative, and can be read in short bits or big bites. This is the perfect book for Christians and their atheist or agnostic friends to read together, and encourages honest, open, and candid debate on the most important issues of life and faith.
  • Robert J. Matz, ed. Divine Impassability: Four Views of God’s Emotions and Suffering (Spectrum Multiview Series). Does God suffer? Does God experience emotions? Does God change? How should we interpret passages of Scripture that seem to support one view or the other? And where does the incarnation and Christ’s suffering on the cross fit into this? The lively but irenic discussion that takes place in this conversation demonstrates not only the diversity of opinion among Christians on this theological conundrum but also its ongoing relevance for today. Views and Contributors: “Strong Impassibility” by James E. Dolezal, assistant professor in the School of Divinity at Cairn University; “Qualified Impassibility” by Daniel Castelo, professor of dogmatic and constructive theology at Seattle Pacific University; “Qualified Passibility” by John C. Peckham, professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University; and “Strong Passibility” by Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University.
  • J.P. Moreland, Khaldoun A. Sweis, and Chad V. Meister, eds. Debating Christian Theism. Comprising groundbreaking dialogues by many of the most prominent scholars in Christian apologetics and the philosophy of religion, this volume offers a definitive treatment of central questions of Christian faith. The essays are ecumenical and broadly Christian, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and feature lucid and up-to-date material designed to engage readers in contemporary theistic and Christian issues. Beginning with dialogues about God’s existence and the coherence of theism and then moving beyond generic theism to address significant debates over such specifically Christian doctrines as the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus, Debating Christian Theism provides an ideal starting point for anyone seeking to understand the current debates in Christian theology.
  • Anthony C. Thiselton. Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates. From the opening pages of the Bible, we learn of God as one who communicates with humankind―offering us first steps toward knowledge of the divine, the very foothold of theology. On this basis, Approaching the Study of Theology presents an engaging introduction to the breadth and depth of the study of theology, mapping the significant landmarks as well as the main areas of debate. The book is divided into three parts: Part I (Approaches) describes the major approaches to theology that have emerged and developed over time. Part II (Concepts and Issues) explains the major concepts and issues, identifying theologians associated with each. Part III (Key Terms) provides a helpful glossary of all the key terms that readers need to understand in order to better understand theology. Written by the eminent theologian Anthony Thiselton, here is an accessible resource for both those in the midst of a theological course or program as well as those contemplating the field.
  • Bruce A. Ware, ed. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God presents in counterpoint form four basic common beliefs on the doctrine of God that have developed over the course of church history with a goal of determining which view is most faithful to Scripture. Contributors to this fifth book in the PERSPECTIVES series are Regent College J.I. Packer chair in Theology and Philosophy Paul Helm (Classical Calvinist perspective), editor Bruce Ware (Modified Calvinist perspective), Baylor University professor of Theology Roger Olson (Classical Arminian perspective), and Hendrix College assistant professor of Religion John Sanders (Open Theist perspective).

WORLDVIEW – A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world

  • Ronnie P. Campbell Jr. Worldviews and the Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach. How does the Christian response to the problem of evil contrast with that of other worldviews? Most attempts at answering the problem of evil either present a straightforward account of the truth claims of Christianity or defend a minimalist concept of God. This book is different. Inside, you’ll examine four worldviews’ responses to the problem of evil. Then, you’ll hear the author’s argument that Christian theism makes better sense of the phenomenon of evil in the world equipping you to reach an informed conclusion. This book’s unique approach integrating worldviews with apologetics with theology will give you a better understanding of the debate surrounding the problem of evil, in both philosophy and theology. Learn to think cogently and theologically about the problem of evil and Christianity’s ability to answer its challenges with Worldviews and the Problem of Evil as your guide.
  • Myron B. Penner, ed. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn (Six Views). R. Douglas Geivett, writes, “Is God a Story? Postmodernity and the Task of Theology”; R. Scott Smith writes, “Christian Postmodernism and the Linguistic Turn”; Kevin J. Vanhoozer writes, “Pilgrim’s Digress: Christian Thinking on and about the Post Modern Way”; John R. Franke writes, “Christian Faith and Postmodern Theory: Theology and the Nonfoundationalist Turn”; James K. A. Smith writes, “A Little Story about Metanarratives: Lyotard, Religion, and Postmodernism Revisited.” 

THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES: DEBATE & DIALOGUE – MULTIPLE VIEWS & PERSPECTIVES

Compiled by David P. Craig, August, 2021

AFTERLIFE – Death, Intermediate State, Heaven and Hell

  • William V. Crockett, ed. Four Views on Hell. Counterpoints first edition: John F. Walvoord defends the “Literal View”; William V. Crockett defends the “Metaphorical View”; Zachary J. Hays defends the “Purgatorial View”; and Clark H Pinnock defends the “Conditional View.”
  • Edward William Fudge. Two Views of Hell: A biblical Theological Dialogue. Edward Fudge gives the case for “Conditionalism” and Robert A. Person gives the case for “Traditionalism.”
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Peter Kreeft. Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College, who shares much in common with evangelicals. 
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Four Views on Hell (Second Edition with New Contributors: Denny Burk defends the Eternal Conscious Torment view; John G. Stackhouse defends the Terminal Punishment view; Robin A. Parry defends the Universalist view; Jerry L. Walls defends the Hell and Purgatory view).
  • Michael E. Wittmer, ed. Four Views On Heaven. Zondervan Counterpoints Series: John S. Feinberg, “The Traditional View”; J. Richard Middleton, “Platonic Earthly View”; Michael Allen, “Heavenly Earth View”; Peter Kreeft, “Roman Catholic Beatific Vision View”.

APOLOGETICS – Giving Good Evidence for the Truth of Christianity 

  • James K. Beilby. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It. Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice. What is apologetics?; How has apologetics developed?; What are the basic apologetic approaches?; Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is a good place to start.
  • Kenneth D. Boa & Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Ever since the apostle Paul addressed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, relating the Christian worldview to a non-Christian world has been a challenge. And despite Peter’s charge to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15), most Christian laypeople have left apologetics―the defense of the faith―to the ecclesiastical pros. Faith Has Its Reasons is a study of four different models of how apologetics should be done, an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and a proposal for integrating the best insights of each. Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman have assembled a wealth of information about what Christians believe and how to present that faith to an unbelieving world. Remarkable both in its depth of content and ease of accessibility, Faith Has Its Reasons gives Christian laypeople the tools to address such critical questions as: Why is belief in God rational despite the prevalence of evil in the world?; What facts support the church’s testimony that Jesus rose from the dead?; Can we be certain Christianity is true?; and How can our faith in Christ be based on something more secure than our own understanding without descending into an irrational emotionalism?
  • Scott R. Burson & Jerry L. Walls. C. S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time. In some ways, they could not be more different: the pipe-smoking, Anglican Oxford don and the blue-collar scion of conservative Presbyterianism. But C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, each in his unique way, fashioned Christian apologetics that influenced millions in their lifetimes. And the work of each continues to be read and studied today. In this book Scott Burson and Jerry Walls compare and contrast for the first time the thought of Lewis and Schaeffer. With great respect for the legacy of each man, but with critical insight as well, they suggest strengths and weaknesses of their apologetics. All the while they consider what Lewis and Schaeffer still have to offer in light of postmodernism and other cultural currents that, since their deaths, have changed the apologetic landscape. This incisive book stands as both an excellent introduction to the work of these two important figures and a fresh proposal for apologetics at the dawn of a new century.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). William Lane Craig presents the “Classical Method”; Gary R. Habermas presents the “Evidential Method”; Paul D. Feinberg presents the “Cumulative Case Method”; John Frame presents the “Presuppositional Method”; and Kelly James Clark presents the “Reformed Epistemological Method.”
  • William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist. The question of whether or not God exists is profoundly fascinating and important. Now two articulate spokesmen–one a Christian, the other an atheist–duel over God’s existence in an illuminating battle of ideas. In God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong bring to the printed page two debates they held before live audiences, preserving all the wit, clarity, and immediacy of their public exchanges. Avoiding overly esoteric arguments, they directly address issues such as religious experience, the Bible, evil, eternity, the origin of the universe, design, and the supposed connection between morality and the existence of God. Employing sharp and humorous arguments, each philosopher strikes quickly to the heart of his opponent’s case. For example, Craig claims that we must believe in God in order to explain objective moral values, such as why rape is wrong. Sinnott-Armstrong responds that what makes rape wrong is the harm to victims of rape, so rape is immoral even if there is no God. By assuming a traditional concept of God in their discussion, the authors ensure that they are truly addressing each other’s viewpoints and engaging in a disagreement over a unified issue. The book is composed of six chapters that alternate between Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong, so that each separate point can be discussed as it arises.
  • Gary R. Habermas, Antony G.N. Flew, & Terry L. Mieth. Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? The Resurrection Debate. This is the most important question regarding the claims of the Christian faith. Certainly no question in modern religious history demands more attention or interest, as witnessed by the vast body of literature dealing with the Resurrection. James I. Packer says it well in his response to this debate: ‘When Christians are asked to make good their claim that this scheme is truth, they point to Jesus’ resurrection. The Easter event, so they affirm, demonstrated Jesus’ deity; validated his teaching; attested to the completion of his work of atonement for sin; confirms his present cosmic dominion and coming reappearance as Judge; assures us that his personal pardon, presence, and power in people’s lives today is fact; and guarantees each believer’s own reembodiment by Resurrection in the world to come’ The Apostle Paul considered the Resurrection to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole structure, Christianity, collapses. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, ‘our preaching is useless and so is you faith’ More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile [emphasis added]’ The Christian faith-and its claim to be Truth-exists only if Jesus rose from the dead. The heart of Christianity is a living Christ.
  • J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist? The Debate Between Theists and Atheists. Is there a God? What is the evidence for belief in such a being? What is God like? Or, is God a figment of human inspiration? How do we know that such a being might not exist? Should belief or disbelief in God’s existence make a difference in our opinions and moral choices, in the way we see ourselves and relate to those around us? These are fundamental questions, and their answers have shaped individual lives, races, and nations throughout history. On March 24, 1988, at the University of Mississippi, J.P. Moreland, a leading Christian philosopher and ethicist, and Kai Nielsen, one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers, went head-to-head over these questions. Does God Exist? records their entire lively debate and includes questions from the audience, the debaters’ answers, and the responses of four recognized scholars – William Lane Craig, Antony Flew, Dallas Willard, and Keith Parsons. Noted author and philosopher Peter Kreeft has written an introduction, concluding chapter, and appendix – all designed to help readers decide for themselves whether God is fact or fantasy.
  • Armand M. Nicholi Jr. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Renowned psychiatrist and educator Armand Nicholi here presents a fascinating comparison of the beliefs of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. For all the variety of specific religious beliefs, there are fundamentally only two kinds of people: believers and nonbelievers. In the 20th century, no spokesman was more prominent for nonbelief than Sigmund Freud, and no one argued for belief more successfully than C. S. Lewis. From pain and suffering to love and sex, from God to morality, Lewis and Freud carefully argued opposing positions and even considered the chief objections to their positions. Based on Nicholi’s years of studying both men, including wide access to Freud’s letters, this debate on the greatest of subjects strikes at the deepest chords in our souls.

BAPTISM – One of two essential ordinances of the Christian Faith.

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life). What is the significance of water baptism? Who should be baptized? Is infant baptism scriptural? Which is the proper baptismal mode: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should people be rebaptized if they join a church that teaches a different form of baptism? Should baptism be required for church membership? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book. Four historic views on baptism are considered in depth: “Baptism of the professing regenerate by immersion: Baptist View” presented by Thomas J. Nettles; “Believers’ baptism on the occasion of regeneration by immersion: Christian Churches/Churches of Christ View” presented by Hohn D. Castelein;  “Infant baptism by sprinkling as a regenerative act: Lutheran View” presented by Robert Kolb; and “Infant baptism of children of the covenant: Reformed View” presented by Richard L. Pratt Jr. Each view is presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended in dialogue with the book’s other contributors. Here is an ideal setting in which you can consider the strengths and weaknesses of each stance and arrive at your own informed conclusion.
  • David F. Wright, ed. Baptism: Three Views. Bruce A. Ware presents the “Believers’ Baptism View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson presents the “Infant Baptism View”; Anthony N.S. Lane presents the “Dual-Practice View.”

BIBLIOLOGY – A Defense of the Bible and Controversies in the Bible, about the Bible, and its People and Books

  • Michael F. Bird, ed. Four Views On The Apostle Paul (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The apostle Paul was a vital force in the development of Christianity. Paul’s historical and religious context affects the theological interpretation of Paul’s writings, no small issue in the whole of Christian theology. Recent years have seen much controversy about the apostle Paul, his religious and social context, and its effects on his theology. In the helpful Counterpoints format, four leading scholars present their views on the best framework for describing Paul’s theological perspective, including his view of salvation, the significance of Christ, and his vision for the churches. Contributors and views include: “The Reformed View”:  presented by Thomas R. Schreiner; “The Catholic View”: presented by Luke Timothy Johnson; “The Post-New Perspective View”: presented by Douglas Campbell; and “The Jewish View”: presented by Mark D. Nanos. Like other titles in the Counterpoints: Bible and Theology collection, Four Views on the Apostle Paul gives theology students the tools they need to draw informed conclusions on debated issues. General editor and New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird covers foundational issues and provides helpful summaries in his introduction and conclusion.
  • David Alan Black, ed. Perspectives On The Ending of Mark: Four Views. Because it is conspicuously absent from more than one early Greek manuscript, the final section of the gospel of Mark (16:9-20) that details Christ’s resurrection remains a constant source of debate among serious students of the New Testament. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark presents in counterpoint form the split opinions about this difficult passage with a goal of determining which is more likely. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors Maurice Robinson and David Alan Black argue for the verses’ authenticity. Keith Elliott (University of Leeds) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) contend that they are not original to Mark’s gospel. Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary) responds to each view and summarizes the state of current research on the entire issue.
  • D.A. Carson. The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism. The author addresses laypeople and pastors with a concise explanation of the science of textual criticism and refutes the proposition that the King James Version is superior to contemporary translations.
  • Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture. In Defense of the Bible gathers exceptional articles by accomplished scholars (Paul Copan, William A. Dembski, Mary Jo Sharp, Darrell L. Bock, etc.), addressing and responding to all of the major contemporary challenges to the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. The book begins by looking at philosophical and methodological challenges to the Bible—questions about whether or not it is logically possible for God to communicate verbally with human beings; what it means to say the Bible is true in response to postmodern concerns about the nature of truth; defending the clarity of Scripture against historical skepticism and relativism. Contributors also explore textual and historical challenges—charges made by Muslims, Mormons, and skeptics that the Bible has been corrupted beyond repair; questions about the authorship of certain biblical books; allegations that the Bible borrows from pagan myths; the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments. Final chapters take on ethical, scientific, and theological challenges— demonstrating the Bible’s moral integrity regarding the topics of slavery and sexism; harmonizing exegetical and theological conclusions with the findings of science; addressing accusations that the Christian canon is the result of political and theological manipulation; ultimately defending the Bible as not simply historically reliable and consistent, but in fact the Word of God.
  • F. David Farnell and Norman L. Geisler, eds. Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate. The inerrancy of God’s Word has been attacked throughout church history. Today’s assaults are unique since neo-evangelicals now surrender to post-modernistic ideas of history and historical-critical ideologies that assault this vital doctrine. They seek to redefine the orthodox meaning of inerrancy. Since the signing of the Chicago Statements, troubling signs have once again appeared in recent years among many who either did not fight the battles for the inerrancy of Scripture as did the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, or who do not remember the troubling times that caused their development. The nature and definition of “inerrancy” are now being changed to include ideas of fallibility. History is forgotten. The need arises for sounding the alarm for Vital Issues in Inerrancy. Evangelical schools and churches that broke away earlier to defend inerrancy surrender now to academic prestige and scholarly fads instead of faithfulness to God’s inerrant Word. The contributors pray that the Lord will raise up a new generation with the spiritual fervency of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to uphold the inerrancy of God’s Word: Isaiah 40:8–“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
  • Scott M. Gibson and Matthew D. Kim. Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Scott Gibson and Matthew Kim, both experienced preachers and teachers, have brought together four preaching experts–Bryan Chapell, Kenneth Langley, Abraham Kuruvilla, and Paul Scott Wilson–to present and defend their approach to homiletics. Reflecting current streams of thought in homiletics, the book offers a robust discussion of theological and hermeneutical approaches to preaching and encourages pastors and ministry students to learn about preaching from other theological traditions. It also includes discussion questions for direct application to one’s preaching.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views On God and Canaanite Genicide (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). A discussion of various contemporary evangelical views of genocide in the Old Testament. Christians are often shocked to read that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, commanded the total destruction―all men, women, and children―of the ethnic group know as the Canaanites. This seems to contradict Jesus’ command in the New Testament to love your enemies and do good to all people. How can Yahweh be the same God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? What does genocide in the Bible have to do with the politics of the 21st century? This book explores, in typical Counterpoints format, the Old Testament command of God to exterminate the Canaanite population and what that implies about continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The four points of view presented on the continuity of the Testaments are: “Strong Discontinuity” presented by C . S. Cowles; “Moderate Discontinuity” presented by Eugene H. Merrill; “Spiritual Continuity” presented by Tremper Longman III; and “Eschatological Continuity” presented by Daniel L. Gard.
  • Charles Halton, ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). James K. Hoffmeier writes about “Genesis 1-11 As History and Theology”; Gordon J. Wenham writes about “Genesis 1-11 As ProtoHistory”; and Kenton L. Sparks writes about “Genesis 1-11 As Ancient Hisoriography.”
  • Mark D. Janzen, ed. Five Views on the Exodus: Historicity, Chronology, and Theological Implications (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Five Views on the Exodus looks at competing views on the historicity, chronology, and theological implications of the exodus. The biblical account of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is one of the most enduring narratives ever told and is a foundational event for several world religions. It resonates across cultures with its timeless themes of redemption and deliverance. It is also the only explanation the Bible gives for Israel’s origin. Despite its unique legacy, many scholars regard the exodus as fictitious or a cultural memory that may not be a historical event. Even among those who believe the exodus happened, there is no consensus regarding its date. Five Views on the Exodus brings together experts in the fields of biblical studies, Egyptology, and archaeology to discuss and debate the most vexing questions about the exodus. Each offers their own view and offer constructive responses to other leading views on the exodus. The five views presented here include: “The Early Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Fifteenth Century BC” by Scott Stripling; “The Late Date: A Historical Exodus in the Thirteenth Century BC” by James K. Hoffmeier; “A Hyksos Levite Led Exodus in the Time of Ramesses II” by Peter Feinman; “The Alternative Late Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Twelfth Century BC” by Gary A. Rendsburg; and “The Exodus as Cultural Memory: A Transformation of Historical Events” by Ronald Hendel.
  • Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, eds. Romans: Four Perspectives. There are several top notch evangelical scholars that participate in this book that interact with various issues in dialogue: Stephen Westerholm writes about “Romans and the ‘Lutheran’ Paul”; Scot McKnight writes about “Romans and the New Perspective”; Douglas A. Campbell writes “Romans and the Apocalyptic Reading of Paul”; and Michael J. Gorman writes “Romans and the Participationist Perspective.” There are significant passages and issues in Romans dealt with by Michael F. Bird; Thomas R. Schreiner; Carl R. Trueman; James D.G. Dunn; and others.
  • J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett, eds. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following five views are presented: “When The Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What The Bible Does” by Peter Enns; “Inerrancy Is Not Necessary For Evangelicalism Outside the USA” by Michael F. Bird; “Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, And Literate Interpretation In the Economy of Biblical Doctrine” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible As Witness To Missional Plurality” by John R. Franke.
  • Stanley E. Porter and Beth M. Stovell, eds. Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views. Craig L. Blomberg presents the “Historical-Critical/Grammatical View”; F. Scott Spencer presents the “Literary/Postmodern View”; Merold Westphal presents the “Philosophical View”; Richard B. Gaffin Jr. presents the “Redemptive-Historical View”; and Robert W. Wall presents the “Canonical View.”
  • Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer. The Synoptic Problem: Four Views. The relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke is one of the most contested topics in Gospel studies. How do we account for the close similarities–and differences–in the Synoptic Gospels? In the last few decades, the standard answers to the typical questions regarding the Synoptic Problem have come under fire, while new approaches have surfaced. Following an overview of the issues, leading proponents of each view set forth their positions and respond to each of the other views. This up-to-date introduction articulates and debates the four major views: “The Two Source Hypothesis” presented by Craig A. Evans;  “The Farrer Hypothesis” presented by Mark Goodacre; “The Two Gospel Hypothesis” presented by David Barrett Peabody; and “Orality and Memory Hypothesis” presented by Rainer Riesner.  A concluding chapter summarizes the discussion and charts a direction for further study.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart D. Ehrman & Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue. Several renowned evangelical scholars tackle the many and varied objections of liberal scholar Bart D. Ehrman.
  • Robert L. Thomas. Three Views On The Origins of the Synoptic Gospels. While secular critics and liberal religious scholars have discounted the historicity and integrity of the first three Gospels, evangelicals maintain that the Synoptic Gospels fully support a high view of inspiration and historicity, despite varying views among evangelicals on Gospel origins. Four evangelical scholars join together in a presentation/response format to examine the three dominant views on Gospel origins. Grant Osborne and Matthew Williams present the “Two-Source or Markian Priority View”; John H. Niemelä presents the “Two Gospel or Matthewan Priority View”; and F. David Farnell presents the “Independence View”. Robert Thomas provides a helpful introduction to the issues and a final summary of the discussion.
  • James R. White. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity. A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is at the core of almost every form of opposition to the Christian faith today. Scripture Alone is written to instill a passionate love for and understanding of the Bible. In this defense of God’s inspired Word, readers will comprehend what “God’s Word” is, the nature of Scripture, the relationship of the Bible to tradition, how to apply Scripture to today’s issues, and much more. Included is a faith-inspiring study of the canon–what it is and where it came from.

CHRISTOLOGY – The Doctrine of Jesus – His Historicity, Person, and Nature

  • W. David Beck and Michael R. Licona, eds. Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Raised on the Third Day approaches these questions with critical and believing eyes. A variety of contributors―including J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Craig A. Evans, Beth M. Sheppard, and Sean McDowell―evaluate scriptural, historical, moral, and apologetic issues related to Christ’s death and resurrection. Readers will better appreciate how Gary Habermas has shaped the discussion and how scholarship can be moved forward. Study of Christ’s resurrection is far from exhausted. Gary R. Habermas is one of the most influential Christian philosophers and apologists of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His life’s work has focused on matters pertaining to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is widely agreed that Habermas is the foremost authority on the subject. This festschrift is a tribute to that work.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Historical Jesus: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public’s attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus. Beginning with a scene-setting historical introduction by the editors, prominent figures in the Jesus quest set forth their views and respond to their fellow scholars. On the one end Robert M. Price lucidly maintains that the probability of Jesus’ existence has reached the “vanishing point,” and on the other Darrell Bock ably argues that while critical method yields only a “gist” of Jesus, it takes us in the direction of the Gospel portraits. In between there are numerous avenues to explore, questions to be asked and “assured results” to be weighed. And John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson and James D. G. Dunn probe these issues with formidable knowledge and honed insight, filling out a further range of options. The Historical Jesus: Five Views offers a unique entry into the Jesus quest. For both the classroom and personal study, this is a book that fascinates, probes and engages.
  • Paul Copan and Ronald K. Taccelli. Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann. Was the resurrection of Jesus a fact of history or a figment of imagination? Was it an event that entailed a raised and transformed body and an empty tomb? Or was it a subjective, visionary experience–a collective delusion? In the view of many, the truth of Christianity hangs on the answer to this question. Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? is a lively and provocative debate between Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig and New Testament scholar and atheist Gerd LÜdemann. This published version of a debate originally set at Boston College is edited by Paul Copan and Ronald K. Tacelli, who invite the responses of four additional scholars. Robert Gundry, a New Testament scholar, and Stephen Davis, a philosopher, argue in support of a historical and actual resurrection. Michael Goulder and Roy Hoover, both New Testament scholars, offer their support for Gerd LÜdemann’s view that the “resurrection” was based on the guilt-induced visionary experience of the disciples. The book concludes with a final response from LÜdemann and Craig.
  • Paul Copan, ed. Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Offers readers a clarifying and insightful comparison and contrast between the Jesus Seminar (Crossan), on the one hand, and evangelical theologians (Craig), on the other.
  • John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue. Two of today’s most important and popular New Testament scholars–John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright–air their very different understandings of the many historical realities and theological meanings of Jesus’ Resurrection.
  • Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, and Robert B. Stewart. Can We Trust on the Historical Jesus? This book features a learned and fascinating debate between two great Bible scholars about the New Testament as a reliable source on the historical Jesus. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic New Testament scholar, debates Craig Evans, an evangelical New Testament scholar, about the historical Jesus and what constitutes “history.” Their interaction includes such compelling questions as: What are sound methods of historical investigation? What are reliable criteria for determining the authenticity of an ancient text? What roles do reason and inference play? And, of course, interpretation? Readers of this debate—regardless of their interpretive inclinations and biases—are sure to find some confirmation of their existing beliefs, but they will surely also find an honest and well-informed challenge to the way they think about the historical Jesus. The result? A more open, better informed, and questioning mind, which is better prepared for discovering both truth and contrivance. The debate between Ehrman and Evans along with Stewart’s introductory framework make this book an excellent primer to the study of the historical Jesus, and readers will come away with a deeper appreciation for the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus.
  • Peter Kreeft. Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ. What would happen if Socrates–yes, the Socrates of ancient Athens–suddenly showed up on the campus of a major university and enrolled in its divinity school?; What would he think of human progress since his day?; How would he react to our values?; To our culture?; And what would he think of Jesus? Peter Kreeft, A Catholic philosopher and longtime admirer of the historic Socrates, imagines the result. In this drama Socrates meets such fellow students as Bertha Broadmind, Thomas Keptic and Molly Mooney. Throughout, Kreeft weaves an intriguing web as he brings Socrates closer and closer to a meeting with Jesus. Here is a startling and provocative portrayal of reason in search of truth. In a new introduction to this revised edition, Kreeft also highlights the inspiration for this book and the key questions of truth and faith it addresses.
  • Michael R. Licona. Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The Resurrection. Imagine if the Apostle Paul were alive to defend the truth of Jesus’s resurrection only to be countered by none other than the prophet Muhammad himself. In an approach as creative as any scholar has taken, Michael R. Licona describes an invention that can make historical figures appear alive and present. Imagining an audience of both Christians and Muslims, Licona crafts a lively debate between Paul and Muhammad, each speaking on and analyzing the validity of the Qur’an, the gospel accounts, and both Christian and Muslim doctrine.Intriguing and entertaining, Paul Meets Muhammad uniquely offers evangelism advice for Christians who want to speak the gospel to Muslim friends and neighbors. This fictional scenario presents a powerful, comprehensive defense of Jesus’s resurrection and of Christianity itself.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue. Several respected evangelical scholars interact with liberal scholars on issues related to the Historical Jesus.
  • Peter S. Williams. Resurrection: Faith or Fact?: A Scholars’ Debate Between a Skeptic and a Christian. Is there enough evidence to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or must such a judgment be based only on faith? Can the resurrection story be considered a fact of history, or should it be viewed as an ahistorical account? Two renowned professors, atheist Carl Stecher and Christian Craig Blomberg, engage in a groundbreaking new debate on these very questions. Other experts on the resurrection, atheist Richard Carrier and Christian Peter S. Williams, comment on the outcome. Presenting new approaches to these centuries-old questions and taking into account the latest scholarly research, Resurrection: Faith or Fact? is a must-have not only for all those following the resurrection question—but also for those skeptics and Christians alike who are interested in determining for themselves the truth behind this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.

COMMUNION – Understanding, preparing for, and participating in the Lord’s Supper

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Counterpoints Church Life). Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? How frequently should we observe it? What does this meal mean? What happens when we eat the bread and drink from the cup? What do Christians disagree about and what do they hold in common? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book.This new volume in the Counterpoints: Church Life series allows four contributors to make a case for the following views: “The Baptist View: Memorialism” defended by Russell D. Moore; “The Reformed View: Spiritual Presence” defended by  I. John Hesselink; “The Lutheran View: Consubstantiation” defended by David P. Scaer; and Roman Catholic View: Transubstantiation” defended by Thomas A. Baima. All contributors use Scripture to present their views, and each responds to the others’ essays. This book helps readers arrive at their own conclusions. It includes resources such as a listing of statements on the Lord’s Supper from creeds and confessions, quotations from noted Christians, a resource listing of books on the Lord’s Supper, and discussion questions for each chapter to facilitate small group and classroom use.
  • Peter Kreeft. Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College.
  • Gordon T. Smith, ed. The Lord’s Supper: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Book). Lord’s Supper. Eucharist. Communion. Sacrament. Ordinance. While it’s the meal that should unite us as followers of Christ, it sometimes appears we can’t even agree on what to call it, let alone how we might share a common theological view of its significance. Even if we cannot reach full agreement, how can we better understand one another and this central observance of the Christian faith? Gordon Smith has invited five representatives of differing views within Christian tradition. Each holds his or her views with conviction and makes the case for that tradition. Each responds to the other views with charity, highlighting significant areas of agreement and disagreement. The views and contributors include: “The Roman Catholic View”–Brother Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., Professor of Church History, Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee; “The Lutheran View”–John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catherines, Ontario; “The Reformed View”–Leanne Van Dyk, Academic Dean and Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan; “The Baptist View”–Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas; “The Pentecostal View”–Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Here’s a book that offers more light than heat on an important topic.

CONFLICT and PEACEMAKING – How to interact with those you disagree with

  • Ronald H. Nash. Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Great Divides addresses the following ten issues on which many Christians disagree: The Health and Wealth Gospel; The End Times; Divorce and Remarriage; Reconstructionism; Political Involvement; Lordship Salvation; Radical Feminism; Abortion; and Women in Church Leadership. By examining the major positions held by other Christians today, it will encourage you to articulate your own position, understand the positions of others, and act upon the issues faithfully.
  • Gavin Ortlund. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage. In theology, just as in battle, some hills are worth dying on. But how do we know which ones? When should doctrine divide, and when should unity prevail? Pastor Gavin Ortlund makes the case that while all doctrines matter, some are more essential than others. He considers how and what to prioritize in doctrine and ministry, encouraging humility and grace along the way. Using four basic categories of doctrine in order of importance, this book helps new and seasoned church leaders alike wisely labor both to uphold doctrine and to preserve unity.

ECCLESIOLOGY  – The Study of the Church and It’s Nature and Practices

  • Paul A. Basden, ed. Exploring The Worship Spectrum: 6 Views ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Paul F.M. Zahl prescribes the “Formal-Liturgical  Worship View”; Harold M. Best prescribes the “Traditional Hymn-Based Worship View”; Joe Horness prescribes the “Contemporary Music-Driven Worship View”; Don Williams prescribes the “Charismatic Worship View”; Robert Webber prescribes the “Blended Worship View”; and Sally Morgenthaler articulates the “Emerging Worship View.”
  • James R. Beck, ed. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The views presented are as follows: “Women In Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective” by Linda L. Belleville; ““Women In Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective” by Craig L. Blomberg; “Women In Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective” by Craig S. Keener; and “Women In Ministry: Another Complementarian Perspective” by Thomas R. Schreiner.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Church Governance: Five Views Of Church Polity. “The Single-Elder-Led Church: The Bible’s Witness to a Congregational/Single-Elder-Led Polity View” is defended by Daniel L. Akin; “The Presbyterian-Led Church: Presbyterian Church Government View” is defended by Robert L. Reymond; “The Congregation-Led Church: Congrgational Polity View” is defended by James Leo Garret, Jr.; “The Bishop-Led Church: The Episcopal or Anglican Polity View” is defended by Paul F.M. Zahl; and “The Plural-Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established—The Plurality of Elders as Christ’s Ordained Means of Church Governance View” is defended by James R. White.
  • Bonnidell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse, eds. Women in Ministry: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Should women teach men? Should they exercise authority over men? What about ordaining women? Even those who agree that Scripture must determine our answers do not agree on what it teaches. And too often differing sides have not been willing to listen to one another. Here in one volume are the views of four deeply committed evangelicals that focus the discussion on the issues. Robert Culver argues for what might be called the “traditional view” that women should not exercise authority over or teach men. Susan Foh suggests a “modified view” which would allow for women to teach but not to hold positions of authority. Walter Liefeld presents a case for “plural ministry” that questions ordination as a means of conferring authority. Alvera Mickelsen defends the “full equality of men and women in the church.” What makes this book especially helpful is that the writers all respond to the other essays, pointing out weaknesses and hidden assumptions.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Who Runs The Church? 4 Views on Church Government (Counterpoints Church Life). Churches have split and denominations have formed over the issue of church government. Yet while many Christians can explain their particular church’s form of rule and may staunchly uphold it, few have a truly biblical understanding of it. What model for governing the church does the Bible provide? Is there room for different methods? Or is just one way the right way? In Who Runs the Church? Four predominant approaches to church government are presented by respected proponents: “Episcopalianism” articulated by Peter Toon; “Presbyterianism articulated by L. Roy Taylor;  “Single-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Paige Patterson; and “Plural-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Samuel E. Waldron.
  • David A. Croteau, ed. Perspectives On Tithing: 4 Views. Was the tithe just for Israel, or is it also applicable to Christians? Must a tithe go only to your local church, or can it be received by any Christian organization? Do we tithe on the net or the gross amount? Perspectives on Tithing presents in point-counterpoint format the most common views about how Christians are to give of their financial resources, addressing the myriad of questions that surround the complex issue. Ken Hemphill (Empowering Kingdom Growth) and Bobby Eklund (Eklund Stewardship Ministries) contribute “The Foundations of Giving” while the book’s editor, David A. Croteau (Liberty University), writes “The Post-Tithing View: Giving in the New Covenant.” A chapter by Reggie Kidd (Reformed Theological Seminary) is called “Tithing in the New Covenant? ‘Yes’ as Principle, ‘No’ as Casuistry.” Finally, Gary North (Institute for Christian Economics) looks directly at “The Covenantal Tithe,” and Scott Preissler (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) provides the epilogue.
  • Christopher John Donato, ed. Perspectives on the Sabbath. Perspectives on the Sabbath presents in point-counterpoint form the four most common views of the Sabbath commandment that have arisen throughout church history, representing the major positions held among Christians today. Skip MacCarty (Andrews University) defends the Seventh-day view which argues the fourth commandment is a moral law of God requiring us to keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy. It must therefore remain the day of rest and worship for Christians. Jospeh A Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) backs the Christian Sabbath view which reasons that ever since the resurrection of Christ, the one day in seven to be kept holy is the first day of the week. Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) supports the Fulfillment view which says that since Christ has brought the true Sabbath rest into the present, the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament are no longer binding on believers. Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary) upholds the Lutheran view that the Sabbath commandment was given to Jews alone and does not concern Christians. Rest and worship are still required but not tied to a particular day.
  • Gary L. McIntosh, ed. Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Gaining form and momentum over the second half of the 20th century, the Church Growth movement has become an enormous shaping force on the Western church today. You may love it, you may hate it, but you can’t deny its impact. But what exactly is Church Growth? In what ways has the movement actually brought growth to the church, and how effective has it been in doing so? What are its strengths and weaknesses? This timely book addresses such questions. After providing a richly informative history and overview, it explores—in a first-ever roundtable of their leading voices—five main perspectives, both pro and con, on the classic Church Growth movement: “Effective Evangelism View” presented by Elmer Towns; “The Gospel in Our Culture View” presented by Craig Van Gelder; “The Centrist View” presented by Charles Van Engen; “The Reformist View” presented by  Gailyn Van Rheenan; and “The Renewal View” presented by Howard Snyder.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Perspectives On Christian Worship: 5 Views. Perspectives on Christian Worship presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on Christian worship that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. The views presented are “Liturgical Worship” by Timothy C.J. Quin; “Traditional Evangelical Worship” by Ligon Duncan; “Contemporary Worship” by Dan Wilt; “Blended Worship” by Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever; and “Emerging Worship” by Dan Kimball.
  • Robert Saucy and Judith TenElshof, eds. Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective. The role of women in the church is a debate that has raged within the church for much of the twentieth century. On one side are those who say there is no difference between men and women. On the other side are those who severely limit women who want to offer ministry to the church. Judith TenElshof and Robert Saucy take the middle approach. Believing that the modern views have denied the distinctions between men and women, the authors adopt a view called complementarianism. TenElshof and Saucy argue that while men and women are equal, God has given different roles to each and that these roles rely on each other to be fully effective.
  • Jason S. Sexton, ed. Four Views On The Church’s Mission ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). This book articulates various evangelical views regarding the church’s mission and provides a healthy, vigorous, and gracious debate on this controversial topic. In a helpful Counterpoints format, this volume demonstrates the unique theological frameworks, doctrinal convictions, and missiological conclusions that inform and distinguish the views: “Soteriological Mission”:  presented by Jonathan Leeman; “Participatory Mission”: presented by Christopher Wright; “Contextual Mission”: presented by John Franke; and “Ecumenical-Political Mission”: presented by Peter Leithart. Each of the four contributors is to answer the same key questions based on their biblical interpretations and theological convictions. What is your biblical-theological framework for mission? How does your definition of mission inform your understanding of the church’s mission? How does the Mission of God and Kingdom of God relate to the mission of the church? What is the gospel? How does your view on the gospel inform the mission of the church? How do verbal proclamation of the gospel, discipleship, corporate worship, caring for the poor, social justice, restoring shalom, developing culture, and international missions fit into the church’s mission? The interaction between the contributors will help readers get a clearer picture of where the differences lie and why different conclusions are drawn and provide a fresh starting point for discussion and debate of the church’s mission.
  • Robert Webber, ed. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives. What are the beliefs of the new movement known as the emerging church? In thought-provoking debate, prominent emerging leaders John Burke, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward discuss their sometimes controversial views under the editorship of author and educator Robert Webber. Hear what they say about their views of Scripture, Christ, the atonement, other world religions, and other important doctrines, so you can come to your own conclusions about the emerging church.

EDUCATION – How To Best Make Disciples among children, youth & families

  • Michael J. Anthony, ed. Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation: Four Views. Scott May argues for “The Contemplative-Reflective Model”; Gregory C. Carlson and John K. Crupper argues for “The Instructional-Analytic Model”; Trisha Graves argues for “The Pragmatic-Participatory Model”; and Tim Ellis, Bill Baumgart, and Greg Carper argue for “The Media-Driven Active-Engagement Model.”
  • Chap Clark, ed. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century (Youth, Family, and Culture): Five Views. Bestselling author Chap Clark is one of the leading voices in youth ministry today. In this multiview work, he brings together a diverse group of leaders to present major views on youth ministry. Chapters are written in essay/response fashion by Fernando Arzola Jr., Greg Stier, Ron Hunter Jr., Brian Cosby, and Chap Clark. As the contributors present their views and respond to each of the other views, they discuss their task and calling, giving readers the resources they need to develop their own approach to youth ministry. Offering a model of critical thinking and respectful dialogue, this volume provides a balanced, irenic approach to a topic with which every church wrestles.
  • Adam Harwood and Kevin E. Lawson. Infants and Children in the Church: Five Views on Theology and Ministry. A congregation rejoices when a new child is added to its midst, yet the church often wrestles—in both theology and practice—with how to best receive and minister to infants and children entrusted to her care. Frequent questions arise like: How are infants and children impacted by sin?; How does God treat people who die in their infancy or childhood?; When and how are children considered members of the church?; and When and how are children instructed in Christian doctrine? Infants and Children in the Church addresses these critical and sensitive questions from a variety of rich traditions, including Eastern Orthodox (jason Foster), Roman Catholic (David Liberto), Lutheran (David P. Scaer), Reformed (Gregg Strawbridge), and Baptist (Adam Harwood), so that Christians can make the most of every opportunity as they minister to children.
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views. Every church is called to some form of family ministry, but this calling requires far more than adding another program to an already-packed schedule. The most effective family ministries refocus every church process to engage parents in discipling their children and to draw family members together instead of pulling them apart. In this second edition, Jones expands the definition of family ministry, and broadens the book’s focus to address urban perspectives and family ministry in diverse settings. 
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: Four Views. In Perspectives on a Child’s Education, proponents of four very different learning options present their faith-based positions on how a parent should answer the question, “Where should I send my child to school?” Troy Temple (International Center for Youth Ministry) is convinced every Christian parent should consider public schooling. G. Tyler Fischer (Veritas Academy) believes open admission Christian schools are best for Christians and non-Christians alike. Mark Eckel (Mahseh Center) favors covenantal Christian schools that don’t enroll non-Christians. Michael Wilder (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) advocates homeschooling. For each contributor’s chapter, a counterpoint chapter from the other contributors follows with a goal of determining which view is most in line with what the Bible teaches.
  • Mark H. Senter III, ed. Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church: Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, and Strategic. Join the conversation as experts propose, defend, and explore Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. In a dialog that often gets downright feisty, four youth ministry academicians delineate their distinct philosophical and ecclesiological views regarding how youth ministry relates to the church at large–and leave a taste of what’s profound and what’s not in these four typologies: “Inclusive congregational” (Malan Nel). What happens when a church thoroughly integrates its adolescents, making them full partners in every aspect of congregational life? “Preparatory” (Wesley Black). Why and how should a church consider its teenagers as disciples-in-training and its youth ministry a school of preparation for future participation in church life? “Missional “ (Chap Clark). What does a church look like, whose youth ministry does not necessarily nurture “church kids” but is essentially evangelistic? Whose youths and youth workers are considered missionaries? “Strategic” (Mark Senter). How feasible is it for a youth ministry to become a new church on its own–the youth pastor becoming the pastor, and the new church planted with the blessing of the mother church? In Four View of Your Ministry and the Church, solid academic writing and an inviting tone and design create a compelling text for both in-the-field, practicing youth workers and undergraduates and graduate student

ESCHATOLOGY – The Study of Last Things

  • Darrell L. Bock, ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Craig A. Blaising defends the “Premillennial View;” Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Robert B. Strimple defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views. Robert L. Raymond presents the “Traditional Covenantal View”; Robert L. Thomas presents the “Traditional Dispensational View”; Robert L. Saucy presents the “Progressive Dispensational View”; and Tom Pratt presents the “Progressive Covenantal View.”
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views. George Eldon Ladd defends the “Historic Premillennialism View”; Herman A. Hoyt defends the “Dispensational Premillennial View”; Loraine Boettner defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Anthony A Hoekema defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Jared Compton, ed. Three Views on Israel and the Church: Perspectives on Romans 9-11. Michael J. Vlach defends “A Non-Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Fred G. Zaspel and James M. Hamilton defend “A Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Benjamin L. Merkle defends “A Typological Non-Future Mass Conversion View.”
  • John S. Feinberg, ed. Continuity and Discontinuity. Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. Evangelicals agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant word. But we sometimes differ on how to relate the messages of the Old and New Testaments. Without a basic understanding of this crucial matter, it is difficult to know how to use the Testaments to formulate either doctrine or practice. For example: Was Israel the OT Church—are OT promises to God’s national people fulfilled in the church today? Or, is Mosaic Law binding on believers now—are twentieth-century Christians to obey the Ten Commandments, including sabbath observance? In this book, thirteen noted evangelical theologians discuss, fairly but clearly, the continuity/discontinuity debate in regard to six basic categories: theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises. Covering much more than the differences between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, this work of distinguished evangelical scholarship will fuel much profitable study and discussion.
  • Steve Gregg. Revelation: A Parallel Commentary Four Views(Revised and Updated). Gregg quotes from various sources representing the four primary ways that evangelicals interpret the book of Revelation: Historical, Idealist, Futurist, and Eclectic.
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Alan Hultberg, ed. Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulational, Prewrath, or Posttribulational. Craig Baising presents the “Pretribulational View”; Alan Hultberg presents the “Pre-Wrath View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Thomas Ice and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate The Question. Thomas Ice defends the “Futuristic View,” and Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Preterist View.”
  • Timothy Paul Jones. Four Views of the End Times. A brief overview of the four main ways scholars interpret Eschatology – pros and cons of each view.
  • Robert M. McKenzie. Identifying the Seed: An Examination and Evaluation of the Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. This book has one goal in mind, to try and bring greater understanding between two dedicated groups of Christians. Dispensationalists and Reformed Christians have a very different understanding of how God has worked in this world as well as how God will continue to work. There is a theological divide that has developed after many years of discussion and stems from a mixture of ignorance; misunderstanding and actual disagreement. Robert McKenzie seeks to examine what each side believes, fleshing out the differences and misunderstandings. He takes a look at the history of each system as well as their theological developments. The author seeks to be faithful to each system pointing out their strengths and weaknesses all the while citing the Scriptures that are used to support each side’s belief. It is hoped that with greater understanding the two groups will be able to engage in conversation with a clearer view of why a doctrine is believed and how the different doctrines build into the system. Whether you are a Dispensationalist, believe in Covenant theology or you aren’t quite sure if you fall in either camp this book can be tremendously helpful.
  • Benjamin L. Merkle. Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Outstanding resource that involves the author interacting with all the key players in the debate over this important debate.
  • Brent E. Parker and Richard J. Lucas, eds. Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). With contributions by Michael Horton and Stephen Wellum (Covenantal perspectives) and Darrel Bock and Mark Snoeberger (Dispensational perspectives).
  • C. Marvin Pate, ed. Four Views on The Book of Revelation. Kenneth Gentry defends the “Preterist View”; Sam Hamster defends the “Idealist View”; C. Marvin Pate defends the “Progressive Dispensationist View”; and Robert L. Thomas defends the “Classical Dispensationalist View.”
  • Richard R. Reiter, ed. Three Views on the Rapture. Paul D. Feinberg presents the Pretribulational View”; Gleason L. Archer presents the “Midtribulational View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Ron Rhodes. The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy: Understanding the Ongoing Controversies. Thoroughly covers the following debates in eschatology: (1) Should Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically? (2) Are Israel and the Church Distinct in Bible Prophecy? (3) What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times? (4) Which View of the Rapture is Correct? (5) How Are We To Understand the Book of Revelation? (6) How Are We To Understand The Antichrist? (7) Which view of the Millennium is Correct? (8) Is it Okay to set prophetic dates?
  • Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker, eds. Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Building on the foundation of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012), Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker have assembled a team of scholars who offer a fresh perspective regarding the interrelationship between the biblical covenants. Each chapter seeks to demonstrate how the covenants serve as the backbone to the grand narrative of Scripture. For example, New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner writes on the Sabbath command from the Old Testament and thinks through its applications to new covenant believers. Christopher Cowan wrestles with the warning passages of Scripture, texts which are often viewed by covenant theologians as evidence for a “mixed” view of the church. Jason DeRouchie provides a biblical theology of “seed” and demonstrates that the covenantal view is incorrect in some of its conclusions. Jason Meyer thinks through the role of law in both the old and new covenants. John Meade unpacks circumcision in the OT and how it is applied in the NT, providing further warrant to reject covenant theology’s link of circumcision with (infant) baptism. Oren Martin tackles the issue of Israel and land over against a dispensational reading, and Richard Lucas offers an exegetical analysis of Romans 9-11, arguing that it does not require a dispensational understanding. From issues of ecclesiology to the warning passages in Hebrews, this book carefully navigates a mediating path between the dominant theological systems of covenant theology and dispensationalism to offer the reader a better way to understand God’s one plan of redemption.

ETHICS – How Should I live Morally as a Christian?

  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. War: Four Christian Views. Have you ever wondered….. Should Christians ever go to war? If so, under what conditions? Here are four modern expressions of four classical views. Dr. Herman Hoyt explains the Biblical Nonresistance view. Christian Pacificism is discussed by Myron S. Augsburger. Arthur F. Holmes explains the Just War view. Preventive War is explained by Harold O.J. Brown.
  • Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King, eds. Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media—often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for—and even a threat to—ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • H. Wayne House, ed. Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Divorce. No one likes it, but it doesn’t go away. Even among Christians, the divorce rate continues to climb. How should Christians approach this issue? May Christians ever legitimately divorce? If they divorce legitimately, may they remarry? Not everyone who appeals to Scripture agrees on how we should understand what it says about divorce and remarriage. In this book, four authors present their distinct perspectives. Carl Laney argues that the Bible indicates that marriages are always intended to be permanent, that there is never a need for divorce and that remarriage is never permissible after divorce. William Heth contends that while there are legitimate biblical grounds for divorce, there are no legitimate grounds for remarriage after divorce. Thomas Edgar defends the position that Scripture allows for divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery or desertion. Larry Richards holds that Scripture, while decrying divorce and the pain it causes, points to a God of grace who will not condemn those who divorce and remarry. Such a sensitive debate cannot remain abstract, so a case study accompanies each position, followed by critical responses from each essayist. The result is a thoughtful, helpful resource for all who wish to think biblically about a crucial issue confronting the church.
  • Douglas S. Huffman, ed. How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making. The three-views approach is an effective and succinct means of introducing theological subjects to readers of all levels. How Then Should We Choose? applies this proven format to the vital topic of decision making and the Christian’s search for the will of God. Garry Friesen of Multnomah Bible College, Henry and Richard Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International, and Gordon T. Smith of Regent College each contribute summaries of their perspectives on God’s will and their approaches to decision making. Friesen discusses the “wisdom” view, Henry and Richard Blackaby delineate the “specific will” view, and Smith champions the “relationship” view of God’s will. In an effort to make this discussion reader friendly, the contributors have applied their beliefs regarding God’s will and decision making to three practical, concrete topics: career, relationships, and stewardship. Using three hypothetical stories, the authors illustrate how their respective views would influence decisions in these common areas of concern.
  • Adam Lloyd Johnson, ed. A Debate on God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties? In 2018, William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate at North Carolina State University, addressing the question: “God and Morality: What is the best account of objective moral values and duties?” Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. This book includes the full debate, as well as endnotes with extended discussions that were not included in the debate. It also includes five chapters by other philosophers who have written substantive responses to the debate – J. P. Moreland, David Baggett, Mark Linville, Wes Morriston, and Michael Huemer. The book provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism and its dependence on, or independence from, theistic foundations. 
  • Nathan L. King and Robert K. Garcia. Is Goodness without God Good Enough?: A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media―often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for―and even a threat to―ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • Peter Kreeft. A Refutation Of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist. No issue is more fateful for civilization than moral relativism. History knows not one example of a successful society which repudiated moral absolutes. Yet most attacks on relativism have been either pragmatic (looking at its social consequences) or exhorting (preaching rather than proving), and philosophers’ arguments against it have been specialized, technical, and scholarly. In his typical unique writing style, Peter Kreeft lets an attractive, honest, and funny relativist interview a “Muslim fundamentalist” absolutist so as not to stack the dice personally for absolutism. In an engaging series of personal interviews, every conceivable argument the “sassy  feminist” reporter Libby gives against absolutism is simply and clearly refuted, and none of the many arguments for moral absolutism is refuted.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Best Things in Life: A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth the Good Life. What are the best things in life? Questions like that may boggle your mind. But they don’t boggle Socrates. The indomitable old Greek brings his unending questions to Desperate State University. With him come the same mind-opening and spirit-stretching challenge that disrupted ancient Athens. What is the purpose of education?; Why do we make love?; What good is money? Can computers think like people?; Is there a difference between Capitalism and Communism?; What is the greatest good?; Is belief in God like belief in Santa Claus?In twelve short, Socratic dialogues Peter Kreeft explodes contemporary values like success, power and pleasure. And he bursts the modern bubbles of agnosticism and subjectivism. He leaves you richer, wiser and more able to discern what the best things in life actually are. A supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Unaborted Socrates: A dramatic debate on the issues surrounding abortion. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • R. Keith Loftin, ed. God & Morality: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Is morality dependent upon belief in God? Is there more than one way for Christians to understand the nature of morality? Is there any agreement between Christians and atheists or agnostics on this heated issue? In God and Morality: Four Views four distinguished voices in moral philosophy ariticulate and defend their place in the current debate between naturalism and theism. Christian philosophers Keith Yandell and Mark Linville and two self-identified atheist/agnostics, Evan Fales and Michael Ruse, clearly and honestly represent their differing views on the nature of morality. Important differences as well as areas of overlap emerge as each contributor states their case, receives criticism from the others and responds. Of particular value for use as an academic text, these four essays and responses, covering the naturalist moral non-realist, naturalist moral realist, moral essentialist and moral particularist views, will foster critical thinking and contribute to the development of a well-informed position on this very important issue.
  • Mark L. Strauss, ed. Remarriage After Divorce in Today’s Church: 3 Views (Counterpoint: Church Life). A biblical and practical case for three main evangelical views on remarriage after divorce among born-again Christians, 27 percent have experienced divorce as compared to 24 percent in the general population. Yet no consensus exists among evangelicals on their views of remarriage, leaving many Christians confused. This single volume summarizes and explores three main evangelical views: “No Remarriage After Divorce”, presented by William A. Heth; “Remarriage After Adultery or Desertion”, presented by Gordon J. Wenham; and “Remarriage for a Variety of Reasons” presented by Craig S. Keener.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed.Christian Ethics: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Brad J. Kallenberg presents, “Virtue Ethics”; John Hare presents, “Divine Command Ethics”; Claire Peterson presents, “Natural Law Ethics”; and Peter Heltzel presents, “Prophetic Ethics.”

HAMARTIOLOGY – The Study of Sin

  • W. Paul Franks, ed. Explaining Evil: Four Views. In Explaining Evil four prominent philosophers, two theists and two non-theists, present their arguments for why evil exists. Taking a “position and response” format, in which one philosopher offers an account of evil and three others respond, this book guides readers through the advantages and limitations of various philosophical positions on evil, making it ideal for classroom use as well as individual study. Divided into four chapters, Explaining Evil covers Theistic Libertarianism (Richard Brian Davis), Theistic Compatibilism (Paul Helm), Atheistic Moral Realism (Michael Ruse) and Atheistic Moral Non-realism (Eric J. Wielenberg). It features topics including free will, theism, atheism, goodness, Calvinism, evolutionary ethics, and pain, and demonstrates some of the dominant models of thinking within contemporary philosophy of religion and ethics. Written in accessible prose and with an approachable structure, this book provides a clear and useful overview of the central issues of the philosophy of evil.
  • Chad Meister, ed. God and The Problem of Evil: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Evil abounds. And so do the attempts to understand God in the face of such evil. The problem of evil is a constant challenge to faith in God. How can we believe in a loving and powerful God given the existence of so much suffering in the world? Philosophers and theologians have addressed this problem countless times over the centuries. New explanations have been proposed in recent decades drawing on resources in Scripture, theology, philosophy, and science. God and the Problem of Evil stages a dialogue between the five key positions in the current debate: Phillip Cary: “A Classic View”; William Lane Craig: “A Molinist View”; William Hasker: “An Open Theist View”; Thomas Jay Oord: “An Essential Kenosis View”; and Stephen Wykstra: “A Skeptical Theism View.” According to the classic position, associated especially with the Augustinian tradition, God permits evil and suffering as part of the grand narrative of divine providence to bring about the redemption of creation. Molinism modifies the classic view by adding God’s middle knowledge to the picture, in which God has knowledge of what creatures would do in all possible worlds. Open theism rejects the determinism of the classic view in favor of an account of God as a risk-taker who does not know for sure what the future holds. Essential kenosis goes further in providing a comprehensive theodicy by arguing that God cannot control creatures and thus cannot unilaterally prevent evil. Skeptical theism rejects the attempt to provide a theodicy and instead argues that, if God exists, we should not expect to understand God’s purposes. Edited and with an introduction by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., God and the Problem of Evil hosts a generous and informative conversation on one of the most pressing issues in the Christian life.
  • J.B. Stump, ed. Original Sin and the Fall: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “What is this that you have done?” Throughout the church’s history, Christians have largely agreed that God’s good creation of humanity was marred by humanity’s sinful rebellion, resulting in our separation from God and requiring divine intervention in the saving work of Christ. But Christians have disagreed over many particular questions surrounding humanity’s fall, including the extent of original sin, the nature of the fall, the question of guilt, how to interpret the narratives from Genesis, and how these questions relate to our understanding of human origins and modern science. Views and Contributors: “An Augustinian-Reformed View” by Hans Madueme, Covenant College; “A Moderate Reformed View” by Oliver Crisp, The University of St. Andrews; “A Wesleyan View” by Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary; “An Eastern Orthodox View” by Andrew Louth, Durham University; and “A Reconceived View” by Tatha Wiley, University of St. Thomas.
  • Terry L. Wilder, ed. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin: Three Views of Romans 7. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin presents in point-counterpoint form three differing views of a Christian’s relationship with the law, flesh, and spirit as illustrated through Paul’s often-debated words in Romans 7. Stephen Chester (North Park Theological Seminary) writes “The Retrospective View of Romans 7: Paul’s Past in Present Perspective,” suggesting the apostle’s description of his struggle speaks more to his pre-Christian self. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) offers “The Flesh Without the Spirit: Romans 7 and Christian Experience,” perceiving Romans 7 as an accurate representation of what believers go through even after their conversion. Mark Seifrid (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), in “The Voice of the Law, the Cry of Lament, and the Shout of Thanksgiving,” asserts that Paul is not speaking of his past or his present Christian experience in Romans 7, but more fundamentally and simply about “the human being confronted with the Law.”Chad Owen Brand (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes a conclusion on the theological and pastoral implications of Romans 7.

HOMOSEXUALITY & LBGTQ & SEX – What Does The Bible Teach?

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views. One of the most pressing issues facing the evangelical church today involves dramatic shifts in our culture’s perceptions regarding human sexuality. While homosexuality and same-sex marriage have been at the forefront, there is a new cultural awareness of sexual diversity and gender dysphoria. The transgender phenomenon has become a high-profile battleground issue in the culture wars. This book offers a full-scale dialogue on transgender identities from across the Christian theological spectrum. It brings together contributors with expertise and platforms in the study of transgender identities to articulate and defend differing perspectives on this contested topic. After an introductory chapter surveys key historical moments and current issues, four views are presented by Owen Strachan, “Transition or Transformation? A Moral-Theological Exploration of Christianity and Gender Dysphoria”; Mark A. Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky, “The Complexities of Gender Identity: Toward a More Nuanced Response to the Transgender Experience”; Megan K. DeFranza, “Good News for Gender Minorities” and Justin Sabia-Tanis, “Holy Creation, Wholly Creation: God’s Intention for Gender Diversity.” The authors respond to one another’s views in a respectful manner, modeling thoughtful dialogue around a controversial theological issue. The book helps readers understand the spectrum of views among Christians and enables Christian communities to establish a context where conversations can safely be held.
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Two Views On Homosexuality, The Bible, and The Church (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). No issue is more divisive or more pressing for the church today than homosexuality. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church brings a fresh perspective to a well-worn debate. While Christian debates about homosexuality are most often dominated by biblical exegesis, this book seeks to give much-needed attention to the rich history of received Christian tradition, bringing the Bible into conversation with historical and systematic theology. To that end, both theologians and biblical scholars—well accomplished in their fields and conversant in issues of sexuality and gender—articulate and defend each of the two views: “Affirming View”: William Loader and Megan K. DeFranza; and the “Traditional View”: articulated by Wesley Hill and Stephen R. Holmes. Unique among most debates on homosexuality, this book presents a constructive dialogue between people who disagree on significant ethical and theological matters, and yet maintain a respectful and humanizing posture toward one another. Even as these scholars articulate pointed arguments for their position with academic rigor and depth, they do so cordially, clearly, and compassionately, without demeaning the other. The main essays are followed by exceptionally insightful responses and rejoinders that interact with their fellow essayists with convicted civility. Holding to a high view of Scripture, a commitment to the gospel and the church, and a love for people—especially those most affected by this topic—the contributors wrestle deeply with the Bible and theology, especially the prohibition texts, the role of procreation, gender complementarity, and pastoral accommodation. The book concludes with general editor Preston Sprinkle’s reflections on the future of discussions on faith and sexuality.
  • Dan O. Via and Robert J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. Few recent issues have sparked such debate in the churches as homosexuality, same-sex unions, and ordination of gays and lesbians. A key point of contention is the meaning and authority of the biblical witness. In this brief book, two New Testament scholars discuss the relevant biblical texts on the subject of homosexual behavior and orientation. Discussing both Old Testament and New Testament texts, each author also raises important interpretive and moral questions and then offers a response to the other’s main assertions. Chief questions examined by each include what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and homosexual behavior, the meaning of those texts in their cultural contexts, and the larger hermeneutical dilemma of what kind of authority the Bible’s teaching, if recoverable, has for Christians today. A thoughtful and irenic dialogue, this volume can facilitate reflection and discussion among church members on a vital and contentious issue in American church life.

MIRACLES – A Miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself

  • Wayne Grudem, ed. Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views. (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Robert B. Gaffin Jr. defends the “Cessationist View”; Robert L. Saucy defends the “Open But Cautious View”; C. Samuel Storms defends the “Third Wave View”; and Douglas A. Oss defends the “Pentecostal/Charismatic View.”

PHILOSOPHY – The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, & existence

  • Paul M. Gould, ed. Four Views On Christianity and Philosophy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Philosophy and Christianity make truth claims about many of the same things. They both claim to provide answers to the deep questions of life. But how are they related to one another? Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy introduces readers to four predominant views on the relationship between philosophy and the Christian faith and their implications for life. Each author identifies the propositional relation between philosophy and Christianity along with a section devoted to the implications for living a life devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. The contributors and views include: Graham Oppy—“Conflict: Philosophy Trumps Christianity”; K. Scott Oliphint—“Covenant: Christianity Trumps Philosophy”; Timothy McGrew—“Convergence: Philosophy Confirms Christianity”; and Paul Moser—“Conformation: Philosophy Reconceived Under Christianity.” General editors Paul M. Gould and Richard Davis explain the background to the discussion and provide some historical background in the introduction, as well as helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion.
  • Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem. Honored in 2006 as a “Year’s Best Book for Preachers” by Preaching magazine. Why a search for the soul? Many Christians assume that it is biblically faithful and theologically noncontroversial to speak of humans having a soul. Yet a wide range of biblical scholars are questioning whether we have correctly understood what the Bible means when it speaks of the “soul.” And contemporary neuroscience is laying more and more questions at the doorstep of the church, asking whether our human sense of self is intelligible on the basis of soul. But for thoughtful Christians, following science on this point looks like caving in to reductionism, while denying science gives off the odor of obscurantism. In Search of the Soul provides a rare opportunity to listen in as four Christian philosophers set forth their best arguments for their distinct views and then respond to each other. While each of these views calls for careful framing and patient exposition, they are labeled as follows: “Substance Dualism (Stewart Goetz); “Emergent Dualism” (William Hasker); “Nonreductive Physicalism” (Nancey Murphy); and “Constitution View of Persons” (Kevin Corcoran). Editors Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer introduce the debate by laying out the critical issues at stake, and wrap it up by considering the implications for the Christian life, particularly hospitality and forgiveness. This is a book of timely interest to philosophers, theologians, psychologists and pastors. Whatever conclusions readers may draw, they will find here an instructive and engaging discussion of a controversy that will not go away any time soon.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed. Faith and Reason: Three Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). In Faith and Reason, Steve Wilkens edits a debate between three different understandings of the relationship between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy. The first viewpoint, “Faith and Philosophy in Tension,” articulated by Carl A. Raschke proposes faith and reason as hostile, exclusive opposites, each dangerous to the integrity of the other. The second, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” articulated by Alan G. Padget suggests that faithful Christians are called to make full use of their rational faculties to aid in the understanding and interpretation of what they believe by faith. In the third stance, “Thomistic Synthesis,” articulated by Craig A. Boyd natural reason acts as a handmaiden to theology by actively pointing people toward salvation and deeper knowledge of spiritual truths. Bringing together multiple views on the relationship between faith, philosophy and reason, this introduction to a timeless quandary will help you navigate, with rigor and joy, one of the most significant discussions of the Christian community. Steve Wilkins concludes the book with a helpful essay on how we can disagree Christianly.

POLITICS  – How A Christian Should Respond To and Be Involved in Society

  • Amy E. Black, ed. Five Views On The Church and Politics (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Thomas W. Heilke defends the “Anabaptist Separationist View”; Robert Benne defends the “Lutheran Paradoxical View”; Bruce L. Fields defends the “Black Church Prophetic View”; James K. A. Smith defends the “Reformed Transformationist View”; and Brian Benestad defends the “Catholic Synthetic View.”
  • P.C. Kemneny, ed. Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Abortion. Physician-assisted suicide. Same-sex marriages. Embryonic stem-cell research. Poverty. Crime. What is a faithful Christian response? The God of the Bible is unquestionably a God of justice. Yet Christians have had their differences as to how human government and the church should bring about a just social order. Although Christians share many deep and significant theological convictions, differences that threaten to divide them have often surrounded the matter of how the church collectively and Christians individually ought to engage the public square. What is the mission of the church? What is the purpose of human government? How ought they to be related to each other? How should social injustice be redressed? The five noted contributors to this volume answer these questions from within their distinctive Christian theological traditions, as well as responding to the other four positions. Through the presentations and ensuing dialogue we come to see more clearly what the differences are, where their positions overlap and why they diverge. The contributors and the positions taken include Clarke E. Cochran: “A Catholic Perspective”; Derek H. Davis: “A Classical Separation Perspective”; Ronald J. Sider: “An Anabaptist Perspective”; Corwin F. Smidt: “A Principled Pluralist Perspective”; and J. Philip Wogaman: “A Social Justice Perspective.”

PSYCHOLOGY – How To Counsel People From a Christian Perspective

  • Stephen P. Greggo and Timothy A. Sisemore, eds. Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches (Christian Association for Psychological Studies). What does authentic Christian counseling look like in practice? This volume explores how five major perspectives on the interface of Christianity and psychology would each actually be applied in a clinical setting. Respected experts associated with each of the perspectives depict how to assess, conceptualize, counsel and offer aftercare to Jake, a hypothetical client with a variety of complex issues. In each case the contributors seek to explain how theory can translate into real-life counseling scenarios. This book builds on the framework of Eric L. Johnson’s Psychology Christianity: Five Views. These include the Levels-of-Explanation Approach, the Integration Approach, the Christian Psychology Approach, the Transformational Approach and the Biblical Counseling Approach. While Counseling and Christianity can be used independently of Johnson’s volume, the two can also function as useful companions. Christians who counsel, both those in practice and those still in training, will be served by this volume as it strengthens the connections between theory and practice in relating our faith to the mental health disciplines. They will finally get an answer to their persistent but unanswered question: “What would that counseling view look like behind closed doors?”
  • Eric L. Johnson, ed. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How are Christians to understand and undertake the discipline of psychology? This question has been of keen interest (and sometimes concern) to Christians because of the importance we place on a correct understanding of human nature. Psychology can sometimes seem disconnected from, if not antithetical to, Christian perspectives on life. How are we to understand our Christian beliefs about persons in relation to secular psychological beliefs? This revised edition of a widely appreciated text now presents five models for understanding the relationship between psychology and Christianity. All the essays and responses have been reworked and updated with some new contributors including the addition of a new perspective, the transformative view from John Coe and Todd Hall (Biola University). Also found here is David Powlison (Westminster Theological Seminary) who offers the biblical counseling model. The levels-of-explanation model is advanced by David G. Myers (Hope College), while Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College) offers an entirely new chapter presenting the integration model. The Christian psychology model is put forth by Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University) now joined by Paul J. Watson (University of Tennesee, Chattanooga). Each of the contributors responds to the other essayists, noting points of agreement as well as problems they see. Eric L. Johnson provides a revised introduction that describes the history of Christians and psychology, as well as a conclusion that considers what might unite the five views and how a reader might evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of each view. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views has become a standard introductory textbook for students and professors of Christian psychology. This revision promises to keep it so.

SANCTIFICATION – How does one grow as a Christian?

  • Donald Alexander, ed. Christian Spirituality: Five Views On Christian Sanctification (Spectrum Multiview Series). How can we grow closer to God? Is there a secret to spiritual life? Do we need a second blessing? Is sanctification God’s work or ours? Is it instantaneous or is it a process? The nature of Christian spirituality has been widely debated throughout the history of the church. The doctrine of sanctification was one of the main fissures separating Luther from the Catholic Church. Even today different groups of Protestants disagree on how we draw closer to God. What distinguishes the different positions and what exactly is at stake in these recurring debates? To answer these questions Donald L. Alexander, professor of biblical theology at Bethel College, has brought together five scholars that represent each of the main historical Protestant traditions: Gerhard O. Forde on the “Lutheran View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson on the “Reformed View”; Laurence W. Wood on the “Wesleyan View”; Russell P. Spittler on the “Pentecostal View”; and E. Glenn Hinson on the “Contemplative View.” With an introduction by Alexander and responses to each of the main essays by the other contributors, this book provides a helpful and stimulating introduction to an important doctrine Christianity.
  • Chad Owen Brand, ed. Perspectives On Spirit Baptism: 5 Views. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism presents in counterpoint form the basic common beliefs on spirit baptism which have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter will be written by a prominent person from within each tradition—with specific guidelines dealing with the biblical, historical, and theological issues within each tradition. In addition, each writer will have the opportunity to give a brief response to the other traditions.
  • Bruce A. Demarest, ed. Four Views on Christian Spirituality (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The Views articulated in this book are as followed: “Orthodox Spirituality: A Quest For Transfigured Humanity” by Bradley Nassie; “Come To The Father: The Fact At The Foundation of Catholic Spirituality” by Scott Hahn; “The Progressive Face of Mainlain Protestant Spirituality” by Joseph Driskill; and “Evangelical Spirituality” by Evan Howard. The views presented are as following: “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit as the Promise of the Father: A Reformed Perspective” by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.; “Spirit Baptism: A Pentecostal Perspective” by Stanley M. Horton; “Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective” by Larry Hart; “A Wesleyan Perspective on Spirit Baptism” by H. Ray Dunning; and “Spirit Baptism: Catholic Perspective” by Ralph Del Colle.
  • Stanley N Gundry, ed. Five Views on Sanctification (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Christians generally recognize the need to live a holy, or sanctified, life. But they differ on what sanctification is and how it is achieved. Five Views on Sanctification brings together in one easy-to-understand volume five major Protestant views on sanctification. Writing from a solid evangelical stance, each author describes and defends his own understanding of the doctrine, and responds as well to the views of the other authors. This book addresses such practical questions as: How does one achieve sanctification in this life? How much success in sanctification is possible? Is a crisis experience following one’s conversion normal―or necessary? If so, what kind of experience, and how is it verified?  The following views are presented and defended: “The Wesleyan View” by Melvin E. Dieter; “The Reformed View” by Anthony A. Hoekema; “The Pentecostal View” by Stanley M. Horton; “The Keswick View” by J. Roberson McQuilkin; and “The Augustinian-Dispensational View” by John F. Walvoord.
  • Alan P. Stanley, ed. Four Views on The Role of Works at the Final Judgement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).Views Presented: “Christians Will Be Judged According To Their Works At The Rewards Judgement, But Not The Final Judgement” by Robert N. Wilkin; “Justification Apart From And By Works: At The Final Judgment Works Will Confirm Justification” by Thomas R. Schreiner; “If Paul Could Believe Both In Justification By Faith And Judgment According To Works, Why Should That Be A Problem For Us?” by James D.G. Dunn; and “A Catholic Perspective: Our Works Are Meritorious At The Final Judgment Because Of Our Union With Christ By Grace” by Michael P. Barber.

SCIENCE – Science and the Bible

  • Michael J. Behe and T.D. Singh. God, Intelligent Design and Fine-Tuning: A Dialogue between T. D. Singh and Michael J. Behe. Is God no longer necessary in a world that is increasingly influenced by a scientific temper? Or, on the contrary, have the findings of modern sciences forced us to approach the question of the existence of God in new ways? The scientific enterprise has gifted us the ability to examine and contemplate deeply the mysterious and beautiful order behind nature. Over the past four decades modern biochemistry has uncovered the secrets of cells and has revealed us the marvelous design even at the molecular level. Advancements in science have also shown us some of the precise laws and unique fundamental constants in the universe. All these facts and observations point to a fine-tuned and specially designed universe with a purpose by a Supreme Being or God. As one journey through the newly discovered marvels of the cosmos and life discussed in this volume, one will be compelled to reexamine his opinion concerning the origins, evolution and essence of this wonderful world in which we live.
  • Ardel B. Caneday, ed. Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Denis O. Lamoureus articulates the “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View”; John H. Walton articulates “A Historical Adam: Archetypal Creation View”; C. John Collins articulates “A Historical Adam: Old-Earth Creation View”; and William D. Barrick articulates “A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View.”
  • Richard F. Carlson, ed. Science & Christianity: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Wayne Frair and Gary D. Patterson argue for “Creationism: An Inerrant Bible and Effective Science View”; Jean Pond argues for ”Independence: Mutual Humility in the Relationship Between Science and Christian Theology View”; Stephen C. Meyer argues for a “Qualified Agreement: Modern Science and the Return of the God Hypothesis View”; and Howard J. Van Till articulates the view called “Partnership: Science and Theology As Partners.”
  • Paul Copan and Christopher L. Reese, eds. Three Views on Christianity and Science. (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Michael Ruse writes the “Independence View”; Alister McGrath writes the “Dialogue View”; and Bruce Gordon writes the “Constrained Integration View.”
  • William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse. Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. In this book, first published in 2004, William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins – a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been ‘design’. Is the appearance of design in organisms (as exhibited in their functional complexity) the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry? Four main positions have emerged in response to these questions: Darwinism, self-organization, theistic evolution, and intelligent design. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate.
  • David G. Hagopian, ed. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall argue for “The 24-Hour View”; Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer argue for the “Day-Age View”; and Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline argue for “The Framework View.”
  • Preston Jones, ed. Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism Christianity. Greg Graffin is frontman, singer and songwriter for the punk band Bad Religion. He also happens to have a Ph.D. in zoology and wrote his dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism. Preston Jones is a history professor at a Christian college and a fan of Bad Religion’s music. One day, on a whim, Preston sent Greg an appreciative e-mail. That was the start of an extraordinary correspondence. For several months, Preston and Greg sent e-mails back and forth on big topics like God, religion, knowledge, evil, evolution, biology, destiny and the nature of reality. Preston believes in God; Greg sees insufficient evidence for God’s existence. Over the course of their friendly debate, they tackle such cosmic questions as: Is religion rational or irrational? Does morality require belief in God? Do people only believe in God because they are genetically predisposed toward religion? How do you make sense of suffering in the world? Is this universe all there is? And what does it all matter? In this engaging book, Preston and Greg’s actual e-mail correspondence is reproduced, along with bonus materials that provide additional background and context. Each makes his case for why he thinks his worldview is more compelling and explanatory. While they find some places to agree, neither one convinces the other. They can’t both be right. So which worldview is more plausible? You decide.
  • Kenneth Keathley, J.B. Stump and Joe Aguirre, eds. Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins With Reason To Believe and Biologos. Various issues are addressed from several scholars belonging to the Two Largest Old Earth organizations: Reason to Believe (Hugh Ross, founder) and Biologos (Francis Collins, founder). Note: there is very little discussion of a “Young Earth” position in this book.
  • J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Thirty-One chapters by top Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians who critique the primary sources and articulators of Theistic Evolution in the 20th-21st Century – a landmark book – approximately 1000 pages of material!
  • Alister McGrath, John Wilson, et. al. The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials). For centuries, Christians have argued exactly what God did “in the beginning.” If this were only a question of science, it would not be so contentious. But theology and science shape one another, and there are few easy answers. This key collection of essays presents the current state of the debate, showing how faithful evangelicals have come to their respective views, and what is at stake for the church. Contents: Chapter 1: The Search for the Historical Adam – Richard N. Ostling; Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Scientists: A Young-Earth Creationist and an Evolutionary Creationist – Tim Stafford; Chapter 3: Augustine’s Origin of Species: How the Great Theologian Might Weigh In on the Darwin Debate – Alister McGrath; Chapter 4: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Furor Over Intelligent Design – Nancy Pearcey; Chapter 5: God by the Numbers: Math and the Theology of Origins – Charles Edward White; Chapter 6: What Good is Stardust?: The Remarkably Equipped Universe – Howard J. Van Till; Chapter 7: Your Darwin Is Too Large: Evolution’s Exaggerated Significance for Theology – John Wilson; Chapter 8: Living with the Darwin Fish: Another ‘Missing Link’ Won’t Destroy My Faith – Stan Guthrie; Chapter 9: The Evolution of Darwin: The Scientist’s Problem with God – Dinesh D’Souza; and Chapter 10: Science in Wonderland: Perspective (250 Million Years’ Worth) on the Evolution Controversy – John Wilson 
  • J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, eds. Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds defend the view of “Young Earth Creationism”; Robert C. Newman defends the view of  “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”; and Howard J. Van Till defends the view called “Theistic Evolution.”
  • Gerald Rau. Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning. The debate over evolution and creation has raged for decades and shows no signs of letting up. Many promote one view as the only reasonable solution. But what are the main viewpoints, and just why do they disagree? In the midst of an increasingly intense dispute, Gerald Rau answers the important questions with level-headed clarity and evenhanded analysis. Rau lays out six models of origins, ranging from naturalistic evolution to young-earth creation. He shows how each model presupposes an underlying philosophy that adherents take on faith. With the sensitivity of a seasoned educator, Rau demonstrates how each model assesses the scientific evidence in relation to four different kinds of origins: the universe, life, species and humans. In an age of specialists, Rau sees the big picture. Mapping the Origins Debate cuts through the cacophony and the complexity to provide a lucid and charitable contribution to the conversation.
  • James Stump, ed. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design  (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Ken Ham’s view is “Young Earth Creationism”; Hugh Ross gives the “Old Earth (Progressive) Creationism View”; Deborah B. Haarsma articulates the “Evolutionary Creation View”; and Stephen C. Meyer presents the “intelligent Design View.”
  • Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk. The Fool and the Heretic: How Two Scientists Moved Beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue About Creation and Evolution. The Fool and the Heretic is a deeply personal story told by two respected scientists who hold opposing views on the topic of origins, share a common faith in Jesus Christ, and began a sometimes-painful journey to explore how they can remain in Christian fellowship when each thinks the other is harming the church. To some in the church, anyone who accepts the theory of evolution has rejected biblical teaching and is therefore thought of as a heretic. To many outside the church, as well as a growing number of evangelicals, anyone who accepts the view that God created the Earth in six days a few thousand years ago must be poorly educated and ignorant – a fool. Todd Wood and Darrel Falk know what it’s like to be thought of, respectively, as a fool and a heretic. This audiobook shares their pain in wearing those labels, but more important, provides a model for how faithful Christians can hold opposing views on deeply divisive issues yet grow deeper in their relationship to each other and to God.

SOTERIOLOGY – The Study of Salvation in the Bible

  • David Basinger and Randall Basinger, eds. Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). If God is in control, are people really free? This question has bothered Christians for centuries. And answers have covered a wide spectrum. Today Christians still disagree. Those who emphasize human freedom view it as a reflection of God’s self-limited power. Others look at human freedom in the order of God’s overall control. David and Randall Basinger have put this age-old question to four scholars trained in theology and philosophy. John Feinberg of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Norman Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary focus on God’s specific sovereignty. Bruce Reichenbach of Augsburg College and Clark Pinnock of McMaster Divinity College insist that God must limit his control to ensure our freedom. Each writer argues for his perspective and applies his theory to two practical case studies. Then the other writers respond to each of the major essays, exposing what they see as fallacies and hidden assumptions.
  • Herbert W. Bateman IV., ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews. Using the popular four-views format, this volume explores the meaning of the five warning passages in the book of Hebrews to both the original readers and us today. Each of the four New Testament scholars present and defend their view and critique the view of their interlocutors. This unique volume will help readers better understand some of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. Contributors include Grant R. Osborne, Buist M. Fanning, Gareth L. Cockerill, and Randall C. Gleason.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Gregory A. Boyd defends the view called “Open-Theism”; David Hunt defends “The Simple Foreknowledge View”; William Land Craig defends “The Middle-Knowledge View”; and Paul Helm defends the “Augustinian-Calvinist View.”
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Justification: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). When Paul wrote these words he seemed confident he had made himself clear. But for centuries the Pauline doctrine of justification has been a classic point of interpretation and debate in Christian exegesis and theology. And while in recent decades there have been moments of hopeful convergence among the various traditions of the Western church, the fine print often reveals more facets and distinctions than ever before. This volume focuses on five views of justification and calls on representative proponents to set forth their case and then respond to each other. The five views are: “Traditional Reformed” defended by Michael S. Horton;  “Progressive Reformed” by Michael F. Bird; “The New Perspective” by James D. G. Dunn;  “Deification, or Theosis” by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen; and  “Roman Catholic” by Gerald O. Collins and Oliver Rafferty. In addition, editors James Beilby, Paul R. Eddy and Steven E. Enderlein provide an extensive introduction to the issues informing this important debate. This distinguished forum of biblical interpreters and theologians offers a lively and informative engagement with the biblical, historical and contemporary understandings of justification. Justification: Five Views is not only a fascinating probe into Paul?s meaning, it is also a case book in theological method.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). A long history of biblical exegesis and theological reflection has shaped our understanding of the atonement today. The more prominent highlights of this history have acquired familiar names for the household of faith: Christus Victor, penal substitutionary, subjective, and governmental. Recently the penal substitutionary view, and particularly its misappropriations, has been critiqued, and a lively debate has taken hold within evangelicalism. This book offers a “panel” discussion of four views of atonement maintained by four evangelical scholars. The proponents and their views are: Gregory A. Boyd: “Christus Victor View”; Joel B. Green: “Kaleidescopic View”; Bruce R. Reichenbach: “Healing View”; and Thomas R. Schreiner: “Penal Substitutionary View.” Following an introduction written by the editors, each participant first puts forth the case for their view. Each view is followed by responses from the other three participants, noting points of agreement as well as disagreement. This is a book that will help Christians understand the issues, grasp the differences and proceed toward a clearer articulation of their understanding of the atonement.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Election: Five Views. Perspectives on Election presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on the doctrine of spiritual election (for example, predestination) that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. Despite the focus upon a topic that divides many people, editor Chad Brand says, “The goal of this book is to add clarity to the discussion and to further the discussion, insofar as it is possible, in an amiable manner.” Contributors and their views are the following: “Divine Election to Salvation” presented by Bruce A. Ware; “The Classical Arminian View of Election” by Jack W. Cottrell; “A Consistent Supralapsarian Perspective on Election” presented by RobertL. Reymond; “Universal Reconciliation and the Inclusive Nature of Election” presented by Thomas B. Talbot; and “Divine Election as Corporate, Open, and Vocational” by Clark Pinnock.
  • Gabriel J. Fackre, ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?  Three Views on The Destiny of the Unevangelized (Spectrum Multiview Series). What is the fate of those who die never hearing the gospel? Do Hindus, Jews, agnostics and others who do not profess faith in Christ really suffer damnation after death? These and similar questions have long been contemplated by people from every religious persuasion and every walk of life. But in a culture of increasing diversity and growing doubt in the existence of “objective truth,” it seems ever more pressing. In this book three scholars present the span of evangelical conviction on the destiny of the unevangelized. Ronald Nash argues the restrictivist position, that receptive knowledge of Jesus Christ in this life is necessary to salvation. Gabriel Fackre advocates divine perseverance, with the expectation that those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. And John Sanders sets forth the inclusivist case–asserting that though God saves people only through the work of Jesus Christ, some may be saved even if they do not know about Christ. As each scholar presents his own case and responds to strengths and weaknesses of differing positions, readers are treated to a lively and informative debate. What About Those Who Have Never Heard? is a truly helpful book on one of today’s–and every day’s–most crucial questions.
  • Dave Hunt and James White. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. A centuries-old belief system is put to the test as two prominent authors examine and debate the subject of Calvinism from opposing viewpoints. James White, author of The Potter’s Freedom, takes the Calvinist position. Dave Hunt, author of What Love Is This, opposes him. The exchange is lively and at times intense as these two articulate men wrestle over what the Scriptures tell us about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. This thought-provoking, challenging book provides potent responses to the most frequently asked questions about Calvinism.
  • Adam J. Johnson, ed. Five Views on the Extent of the Atonement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). For whom did Christ die? Who may be saved? are questions of perennial interest and importance for the Christian faith. In a familiar Counterpoints format, this book explores the question of the extent of Christ’s atonement, going beyond simple Reformed vs. non-Reformed understandings. This volume elevates the conversation to a broader plane, including contributors who represent the breadth of Christian tradition: “Eastern Orthodox”: expounded by Andrew Louth; “Roman Catholic”: expounded by Matthew Levering; “Traditional Reformed”: expounded by Michael Horton; “Wesleyan”: expounded by Fred Sanders; and “Barthian Universalism”: expounded by Tom Greggs.
  • R.T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen. The Christian and the Pharisee: Two Outspoken Religious Leaders Debate the Road to Heaven. The book reproduces a candid exchange of letters between two leading religious figures: an evangelical preacher and a senior Jewish rabbi. This groundbreaking publication is a rare opportunity to read the heartfelt correspondence of two prolific and acclaimed theologians, as they both seek to vigorously defend their own beliefs and allow themselves to be challenged by the claims of the other. As the discussion continues we see mutual respect grow and a strong friendship forged before the relationship is inevitably tested as they encounter points of seemingly irreconcilable differences. Though there are issues and beliefs which separate the two theological camps, this book shows how they share enough to not only get along, but form strong alliances.
  • Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, eds. Four Views On Salvation In A Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). John Hick proposes the “Pluralist View”; Clark Pinnock proposes the “Inclusivist View”; Alister McGrath proposes “A Particularist View: A Post-Enlightenment Approach”; and R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips present “A Particularist View: An Evidentialist Approach.”
  • Andrew David Naselli and Mark A. Snoeberger, eds. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement presents a point-counterpoint exchange concerning God’s intention in sending Christ to die on the cross. All three contributors recognize a substitutionary element in the atoning work of Christ, but disagree over the nature and objects of that substitution. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work secured the redemption of his elect alone. While infinite in value, Christ’s death was intended for and applied strictly to those whom the Father had elected unconditionally in eternity past. John Hammett (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work had multiple intentions. Of these intentions two rise to the fore: (1) the intention to accomplish atonement for God’s elect and (2) the intention to provide atonement for all mankind. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) argues that Christ’s atoning work provided atonement generally for all mankind. The application of that atoning work is conditioned, however, on each person’s willingness to receive it.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Four Views On Eternal Security (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Does the Bible support the concept of “once saved, always saved,” or can a person lose his or her salvation? How do the Scriptures portray the complex interplay between grace and free will? These and related questions are explored from different angles in this thought-provoking Counterpoints volume. The contributors each state their case for one of four prominent views on eternal security: “Classical Calvinist” (Michael Horton), “Moderate Calvinist” (Norman L. Geisler), “Reformed Arminian” (Stephen M. Ashby),  and “Wesleyan Arminian” (Steve Harper). In keeping with the forum approach of the Counterpoints series, each view is first presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended. This fair and respectful approach allows you to weigh for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of the different doctrinal stances. By furnishing you with scholarly and thoughtful perspectives on the topic of eternal security, this book helps you sift through opposing views to arrive at your own informed conclusions. 
  • James R. White. The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free. Norman L. Geisler’s Chosen but Free sparked a firestorm of controversy when he labeled Calvinism “theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” White steps into the breach with his cogent response. His systematic refutation of Geisler’s argument will help you understand what the Reformed faith really teaches about divine election and how Reformed thought conforms to the gospel.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE – How to Practically Do Battle with the Enemy 

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, editors. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Walter Wink, “The World Systems Model”; David Powlison, “The Classical Model”; Greg Boyd, “The Ground-Level Deliverance Model”; C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood, “The Strategic-Level Deliverance Model.”

THEOLOGICAL METHOD – How to Do Theology and Communal Expressions of It

  • Kenneth Berding, ed. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Walter C. Kaiser defends the view: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents”; Darrel L. Bock defends the view: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents”; and Peter Enns defends the view: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal. 
  • Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Across The Spectrum: Understanding Issues In Evangelical Theology (Second Edition). This new edition of a popular text presents an accessible yet comprehensive primer that helps readers understand the breadth of viewpoints on major issues in evangelical theology, with chapters using the popular three- or four-views book format. The authors carefully examine thirty-four positions taken by evangelical scholars on seventeen seminal issues. They lay out the biblical, theological, and philosophical arguments for each position in point-counterpoint fashion and discuss possible objections. The second edition retains the helpful features of the first edition–end-of-chapter “For Further Reading” sections and an extensive glossary–and adds an appendix that addresses thirteen peripheral issues in contemporary evangelicalism.
  • Ronnie Campbell, ed. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views (Counterpoints Theology and Life).During a time of global conflict, the theological question of whether Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God carries political baggage. Is the God of ISIS the same as the God of Israel? Do Sunni Muslims and Protestant Christians pray to the same Creator and Sustainer of the universe? In this Counterpoints volume, edited by Ronnie P. Campbell, Jr., and Christopher Gnanakan, five leading scholars present the main religious perspectives on this question, demonstrating how to think carefully about an issue where opinions differ and confusion abounds. They examine related subtopics such as the difference between God being referentially the same and essentially the same, what “the same” means when referring to God, the significance of the Trinity in this discussion, whether religious inclusivism is inferred by certain understandings of God’s sameness, and the appropriateness of interfaith worship.The four main views, along with the scholars presenting them, are: “All Worship the Same God: Religious Pluralist View” presented by Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb, Jr.; “All Worship the Same God: Referring to the Same God View” presented by Francis J. Beckwith; “Jews and Christians Worship the Same God: Shared Revelation View” presented by  Gerald R. McDermott; and “None Worship the Same God: Different Conceptions View” presented by Jerry L. Walls) Additionally, essays by Joseph Cumming and David W. Shenk explore the implications of this question specifically for Christians wanting to minister among and build relationships with Muslims. Cumming stresses that finding common ground is key, while Shenk advocates for a respectful focus on differences.
  • John Jefferson Davis. Handbook of Basic Bible Texts: Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine & Theology. This volume provides the complete text of key Scripture passages that form the basis for theological study. The text used is the highly readable and modern New International Version. The verses listed are grouped by the classical categories of systematic theology (e.g., God, Christ, Salvation); on disputed points, verses from which the major theological views derive are given. Footnotes provide clarification and brief commentary on verses as appropriate. This work is intended to assist the theological student who might not take the time to look up the verses cited in systematic theologies, but it will also be useful to anyone seeking to better understand the major themes of Scripture.
  • Louis Goldberg, ed. How Jewish Is Christianity? 2 Views On The Messianic Movement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Diverse perspectives about the messianic movement ― from six contributors. Are Messianic congregations necessary or should Jewish believers be incorporated into the Gentile church? This is the topic of the latest volume in the Counterpoints series. The question of how Christian Jews relate their Jewish practices and customs to the church has been an issue within Christianity since the first century. Contemporary contributors who have lived and wrestled with this issue present informed arguments and counter-arguments. The book concludes with a chapter on the future for Messianic Jews and a directory of messianic movement organizations. Contributors include: John Fischer (ThD, California Graduate School of Theology, PhD, University of South Florida) is a rabbi of Congregation Ohr Chadash and Chairman of Judaic Studies at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum (ThM, PhD, New York University) has served with the Chosen People Ministries and Christian Jew Foundation in the past and is now the founder and director of Ariel Ministries. Gershon Nerel (PhD, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) has served as “Israel Secretary” for the International Messianic Jewish Alliance and has also been a member of the executive committee for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel. David Stern (PhD, MDiv) is the translator of the Jewish New Testament from Greek to English to express its Jewishness; his version of the Tanak is the Complete Jewish Bible. Will Varner (EdD, Temple University) servers as professor of biblical studies at the Master’s College, CA, and the director of the Israel Bible Extension campus of this college in Israel.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Five Views On Law and Gospel (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). “The Non-Theonomic View” is presented by Willem A. VanGemeren; “The Theonomic Reformed View” is presented by Greg L. Bahnsen; “The Law As God’s Gracious Guidance For The Promotion of Holiness View” is presented by Walter C. Kaiser; “A Dispensational View” is presented by Wayne G. Strickland; and “A Modified Lutheran View” is presented by Douglas J. Moo.
  • Collin Hansen and Andrew David Naselli, eds. Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following views are presented in this dialogue: “Fundamentalism” by Kevin T. Bauder; “Confessional Evangelicalism” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Generic Evangelicalism” by John G. Stackhuse Jr.; and “Postconservative Evangelicalism” by Roger E. Olson.
  • Gordon R. Lewis. Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook. The great Christian doctrines are worth thinking through for ourselves. That’s why Gordon Lewis has provided this concise and complete survey of the major truths of the Christian faith. But rather than just telling us what he has discovered in Scripture, he offers a theological workbook that helps us explore the evidence itself and to draw our own conclusions. He has organized the material around the main themes of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, humanity, creation, the church, and the end times. This unique text has been used by students of the Bible over the last three decades in the classroom, in the home and in the church. Its enduring quality continues to make it a valuable tool for all who want to develop a systematic theology for themselves.
  • Erwin W. Lutzer. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historical Doctrines That Separate Christians. Lutzer examines various controversies that exist within the broad spectrum of Christianity, presenting the historical background of the issue and the biblical understanding of the doctrine. Chapters include “Predestination or Free Will?”; “Why Can’t We Agree about Baptism”?; and “Justification by Faith.”
  • Gary T, Meadors, ed. Four Views on Moving Beyond The Bible To Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following models of methods are proposed: “A Principlizing Model” by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.; “A Redemptive-Historical Model” by Daniel M. Doriani; “A Drama of Redemption Model” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “A Redemptive-Movement Model” by William J. Webb.
  • Stanley E. Porter, ed. Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How should one approach the task of theology? The question of methodology is increasingly one of interest among theologians, who recognize that the very manner in which we approach theology informs both the questions we ask and the conclusions we reach. This volume in IVP’s Spectrum Multiview series brings together five evangelical theologians with distinctly different approaches to the theological task. After presenting the approaches―which include appeals to Scripture, context, missions, interdisciplinary studies, and dogmatics―each contributor responds to the other views. Emerging from this theological conversation is an awareness of our methodological commitments and the benefits that each approach can bring to the theological task. Contributors:Sung Wook Chung, “Bible Doctines Conservative Theology: Codifying God’s Word”;  John R. Franke, “Missional Theology: Living God’s Love”; Telford C. Work, “An Interdisciplinary Theology Response”; Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo, “A Contextual Theology Response”; and Paul Louis Metzger, “A Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology Response.”
  • James Stamoolis, ed. Three Views On Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Bradley Nassif answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Yes”; Michael Horton answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; Vladimir Berzonsky answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; George Hancock-Stefan answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe”; And Edward Rommen answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe.”

THEOLOGY PROPER – The Study of God: 

The Trinity, His Nature, Character & Activity in Our World 

  • Dennis Jowers, ed. Four Views on Divine Providence (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Kjoss Helseth propounds the view that “God Causes All Things”; William Lane Craig propounds the view that “God Directs All Things”; Ron Highfield propounds the view that “God Controls By Liberating”; and Gregory A. Boyd propounds that “God Limits Control.”
  • Gregory E. Ganssle, ed. God & Time: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Paul Helm proclaims the “Divine Timeless Eternity View”; Alan G. Padgett proclaims the “Eternity As Relative Timelessness View”; William Lane Craig proclaims the “Timelessness & Omnitemporality View”; and Nicholas Wolterstorff proclaims the “Unqualified Divine Temporality View.”
  • Stephen R. Holmes, ed. Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The doctrine of the Trinity stands front and center of the Christian faith and its articulation. After a sustained drought of trinitarian engagement, the doctrine of the Trinity has increasingly resurged to the forefront of Evangelical confession. The second half of the twentieth century, however, saw a different kind of trinitarian theology developing, giving way to what has commonly been referred to as the “social Trinity.” Social—or better, relational—trinitarianism has garnered a steady reaction from those holding to a classical doctrine of the Trinity, prompting a more careful and thorough re-reading of sources and bringing about not only a much more coherent view of early trinitarian development but also a strong critique of relational trinitarian offerings. Yet confusion remains. As Evangelicals get better at articulating the doctrine of the Trinity, and as the current and next generation of believers in various Christian traditions seek to be more trinitarian, the way forward for trinitarian theology has to choose between the relational and classical model, both being legitimate options.In this volume, leading contributors—one evangelical and one mainline/catholic representing each view—establish their models and approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity, each highlighting the strengths of his view in order to argue how it best reflects the orthodox perspective. In order to facilitate a genuine debate and to make sure that the key issues are teased out, each contributor addresses the same questions regarding their trinitarian methodology, doctrine, and its implications. Contributors include: Stephen R. Holmes; Paul D. Molnar; Thomas H. McCall; and Paul S. Fiddes.
  • Robert J. Matz, ed. Divine Impassability: Four Views of God’s Emotions and Suffering (Spectrum Multiview Series). Does God suffer? Does God experience emotions? Does God change? How should we interpret passages of Scripture that seem to support one view or the other? And where does the incarnation and Christ’s suffering on the cross fit into this? The lively but irenic discussion that takes place in this conversation demonstrates not only the diversity of opinion among Christians on this theological conundrum but also its ongoing relevance for today. Views and Contributors: “Strong Impassibility” by James E. Dolezal, assistant professor in the School of Divinity at Cairn University; “Qualified Impassibility” by Daniel Castelo, professor of dogmatic and constructive theology at Seattle Pacific University; “Qualified Passibility” by John C. Peckham, professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University; and “Strong Passibility” by Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University.
  • Bruce A. Ware, ed. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God presents in counterpoint form four basic common beliefs on the doctrine of God that have developed over the course of church history with a goal of determining which view is most faithful to Scripture. Contributors to this fifth book in the PERSPECTIVES series are Regent College J.I. Packer chair in Theology and Philosophy Paul Helm (Classical Calvinist perspective), editor Bruce Ware (Modified Calvinist perspective), Baylor University professor of Theology Roger Olson (Classical Arminian perspective), and Hendrix College assistant professor of Religion John Sanders (Open Theist perspective).

WORLDVIEW – A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world

  • Ronnie P. Campbell Jr. Worldviews and the Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach. How does the Christian response to the problem of evil contrast with that of other worldviews? Most attempts at answering the problem of evil either present a straightforward account of the truth claims of Christianity or defend a minimalist concept of God. This book is different. Inside, you’ll examine four worldviews’ responses to the problem of evil. Then, you’ll hear the author’s argument that Christian theism makes better sense of the phenomenon of evil in the world equipping you to reach an informed conclusion. This book’s unique approach integrating worldviews with apologetics with theology will give you a better understanding of the debate surrounding the problem of evil, in both philosophy and theology. Learn to think cogently and theologically about the problem of evil and Christianity’s ability to answer its challenges with Worldviews and the Problem of Evil as your guide.
  • Myron B. Penner, ed. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn (Six Views). R. Douglas Geivett, writes, “Is God a Story? Postmodernity and the Task of Theology”; R. Scott Smith writes, “Christian Postmodernism and the Linguistic Turn”; Kevin J. Vanhoozer writes, “Pilgrim’s Digress: Christian Thinking on and about the Post Modern Way”; John R. Franke writes, “Christian Faith and Postmodern Theory: Theology and the Nonfoundationalist Turn”; James K. A. Smith writes, “A Little Story about Metanarratives: Lyotard, Religion, and Postmodernism Revisited.” 

Book Review: Heaven – From Crossway’s Theology in Community Series

A Comprehensive Biblical Look At Heaven

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Book Review By David P. Craig

Having already read Suffering and Goodness of God (2008); The Glory of God (2010); The Deity of Christ (2011); The Kingdom of God (2012); and Fallen: A Theology of Sin (2013) I was anxiously anticipating this sixth installment of the Theology in Community Series. Heaven (as all the other books in this series) did not disappoint. Each book in this series features chapters written by different theologians; pastors; and scholars that demonstrate how the particular theme is taught in history, systematically, biblically, and its practical relevance and ramifications for the modern Church.

Robert Peterson (PhD, Drew University; is Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary) opens the book up with four ancient and modern stories of how false teaching on Heaven has resulted in some cases tragically. He then examines the Noetic effects of sin on our understanding of Heaven. In closing his chapter he asks and answers seven common questions people ask concerning Heaven: (1) Will everyone go to Heaven? (2) What happens when believers die? (3) What about purgatory? (4) Will we recognize others in Heaven? (5) Will we be married and enjoy sex in Heaven? (6) Will there be sorrow in Heaven over those in Hell? (7) What kind of bodies will we have in heaven?

Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. (PhD, University of Aberdeen; is Senior Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN.) tackles six key texts on Heaven in the Old Testament: Genesis 28; Exodus 24; 1 Kings 22; Job 1-2; Isaiah 6; and Daniel 7. In each passage Ortlund mines exegetical, theological, and practical principles that we learn about Heaven as taught in the Old Testament. Earth and Heaven are currently very distinct, but the unfolding revelation of Heaven from the Bible as Ortlund makes clear is that Heaven and Earth will one day be transformed together into the dwelling place of God.

Jonathan T. Pennington (PhD, University of St. Andrews; is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes about the language of Heaven in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. The word we typically translate as “heaven” in English from the Greek is used 161 times in the Synoptics and Acts. Pennington demonstrates in his chapter that the word for Heaven conveys various ideas. He brings out the crucial aspects of how the worldview of the biblical writers and of our own day are in conflict and how we need to return to a biblical worldview in order to make sense of Heaven as a real physical and non-abstract place.

Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; is Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) approaches Paul’s teaching on Heaven in three distinct ways: (1) How Paul understands Heaven according to the Old Testament; (2) How Paul thinks about Heaven in a Systematic and meditative way; and (3) How Paul hones in on Heaven as the believer’s final, and future state prior to and as a result of Christ’s Second Coming.

Jon Laansma (PhD, University of Aberdeen; is Associate Professor of Ancient Languages and New Testament at Wheaton College) writes concerning how the 8 general canonical epistles (Hebrews, 1&2 Peter, James, Jude, 1-3 John) represent the distinctive perspectives on heaven by sketching out their primary concerns and contours with references to their pastoral intentions. He is very helpful in showing how the Christological elements of Heaven are tied to the practical concerns of Christians on Earth.

Andreas J. Kostenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) explores the distinctive contributions that John makes in his Gospel and the book of Revelation to helping us understand what Heaven is and what it is like.

Robert A. Peterson writes his second essay in this compilation on Pictures of Heaven that are portrayed throughout the Scriptures. Taking into consideration the story line of the Bible (creation–fall–redemption–consummation) Peterson demonstrates how the Bible is a picture book that sketches the gospel story of these four stages of the story line by using five pictures to illustrate the gospel: Heaven and Earth; Sabbath Rest; The Kingdom of God; The Presence of God; and The Glory of God. Peterson presents a masterful biblical theology of Heaven and ties it into the macro-storyline of the Gospel from Genesis to Revelation.

Gerald Bray (DLitt, University of Paris-Sorbonne; is Research Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School) writes about two themes in his essay: (1) Heaven as Understood before the Coming of Christ; and (2) Heaven as Understood since the Coming of Christ.

Stephen F. Noll (PhD, University of Manchester; is Vice Chancellor Emeritus of Uganda Christian University) gives a biblical theology of angels (good and evil) and about their relationship to God and us in Heaven as revealed in the Scriptures.

Ajith Fernando (ThM, Fuller Theological Seminary; is Teaching Director of Youth For Christ in Sri Lanka) addresses how the reality of Heaven helps Christians who are being persecuted historically and in the present. He spends the bulk of his chapter showing how the “biblical foursome” of (1) Evangelism triggers (2) persecution. (3) The presence of Christ helps us bear the persecution and gives a foretaste of heaven. (4) The Heavenly vision helps us be faithful amidst persecution. Fernando reminds us the prospect of Heaven is a great motivation to be faithful in taking up our crosses and following Christ.

David B. Calhoun (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary; is Professor Emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary) closes out the book by writing about his own struggle with cancer and how suffering and pictures of the hope of Heaven are crucial when going through the hard trials and tests of life.

All of the essays in this book were biblical; theologically thought-provoking; dealt with current practical scenarios; and were gospel centered and Christ exalting. I highly recommend this book for Christians who want to learn what the Bible has to say rather than much of the subjective drivel that is being churned over Heaven in many of the popular books of our day.

*I was furnished with a copy of this book for review by the publisher and was not required to write a favorable review.

 

Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

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JESUS THROUGH THE BIBLE BY DR. PHILIP RYKEN

We believe in a Christ-centered Bible. The salvation that was expected in the Old Testament is exhibited in the Gospels and then explained in the rest of the New Testament.

From Genesis we learn that Jesus is the seed of the woman who will crush Satan’s head, and the son of Abraham who will bless all the nations of the earth. From Exodus we learn that Jesus is the Passover Lamb whose blood saves us from the angel of death, and the wilderness tabernacle where God dwells in glory. From Leviticus we learn that He is the atoning sacrifice that takes away our sin. From Numbers we learn that He is the bronze serpent lifted up for everyone who looks to Him in faith. From Deuteronomy we learn that He is the prophet greater than Moses who comes to teach us God’s will.

So much for the Pentateuch.

What do we learn from the historical books? From Joshua we learn that Jesus is our great captain in the fight. From Judges we learn that He is the king who helps us do what is right in God’s eyes, and not our own. From Ruth we learn that Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. From1 and 2 Samuel we learn that He is our anointed king. From 1 and 2 Kings we learn that He is the glory in the temple. From 1 and 2 Chronicles we learn that He is the Son of David — the rightful king of Judah. From Ezra and Nehemiah we learn that He will restore the city of God. From Esther we learn that He will deliver us from all our enemies.

Then we come to the poetic writings. From Job we learn that Jesus is our living redeemer, who will stand on the earth at the last day. From the Psalms we learn that He is the sweet singer of Israel — the Savior forsaken by God and left to die, yet restored by God to rule the nations. From Proverbs we learn that Jesus is our wisdom. From Ecclesiastes we learn that He alone can give us meaning and purpose. From the Song of Solomon we learn that He is the lover of our souls.

This brings us to the prophets, whose special mission it was to prophesy about the coming of Christ. Isaiah tells that He is the child born of the Virgin, the son given to rule, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and the servant stricken and afflicted, upon whom God has laid all our iniquity. Jeremiah and Lamentations tell us that Jesus is our comforter in sorrow, the mediator of a new covenant who turns our weeping into songs of joy. Ezekiel tells us that the Spirit of Jesus can breathe life into dry bones and make a heart of stone beat again. Daniel tells us that Jesus is the Son of Man coming in clouds of glory to render justice on the earth.

These are the Major Prophets, but the Minor Prophets also bore witness to Jesus Christ. Hosea prophesied that He would be a faithful husband to His wayward people. Joel prophesied that before He came to judge the nations, Jesus would pour out His Spirit on men and women, Jews and Gentiles, young and old. Amos and Obadiah prophesied that He would restore God’s kingdom. Jonah prophesied that for the sake of the nations, He would be raised on the third day. Micah prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Nahumprophesied that He would judge the world. Habakkuk prophesied that He would justify those who live by faith. Zephaniah prophesied He would rejoice over His people with singing. Haggai prophesied that He would rebuild God’s temple. Zechariah prophesied that He would come in royal gentleness, riding on a donkey, and that when He did, all God’s people would be holy. Malachi prophesied that before He came, a prophet would turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children.

From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is all about Jesus. But of course it is in the New Testament that Jesus actually comes to save His people. Whereas the Old Testament gives us His background, the New Testament presents His biography.

The gospels give us the good news of salvation through His crucifixion and resurrection. The Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus is the Messiah God promised to Israel. The Gospel of Mark is that He is the suffering servant. The Gospel of Luke is that He is a Savior for everyone, including the poor and the weak. The Gospel of John is that He is the incarnate word, the Son of God, the light of the world, the bread of life, and the only way of salvation. But all the gospels end with the same good news: Jesus died on the cross for sinners and was raised again to give eternal life; anyone who believes in Him will be saved.

Then the New Testament turns its attention to the church, which is still about Jesus because the church is His body. The book of Acts shows how Jesus is working in the church today, through the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then come all the letters that were written to the church — letters that tell about Jesus and how to live for Him. In Romans Jesus is righteousness from God for Jews and Gentiles; in 1 and 2 Corinthians He is the one who unifies the church and gives us spiritual gifts for ministry. In Galatians Jesus liberates us from legalism; in Ephesians He is the head of the church; in Philippians He is the joy of our salvation; in Colossians He is the firstborn over all creation. In 1 and 2 Thessalonians Jesus is coming soon to deliver us from this evil age; in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus He shepherds His people; and in Philemon He reconciles brothers who are separated by sin. This is the gospel according to Paul.

Hebrews is an easy one: Jesus is the great high priest who died for sin once and for all on the cross and who sympathizes with us in all our weakness. In the Epistle of James, Jesus helps us to prove our faith by doing good works. In the Epistles of Peter He is our example in suffering. In the Letters of John He is the Lord of love. In Jude He is our Master and Teacher. Last, but not least, comes the book of Revelation, in which Jesus Christ is revealed as the Lamb of God slain for sinners, Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the great Judge over all the earth, and the glorious God of heaven.

The Bible says that in Jesus “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17) and this is as true of the Bible as it is of anything else. Jesus holds the whole Bible together. From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God is all about Jesus, and therefore it has the power to bring salvation through faith in Him. It is by reading the Bible that we come to know Jesus, and it is by coming to know Jesus that we are saved. This is why we are so committed to God’s Word, why it is the foundation for everything we do, both as a church and as individual Christians.

We love the Word because it brings us to Christ.

Jesus Through the Bible by Philip Graham Ryken. 2005 Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Revised 2007, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. All rights reserved. All Scripture from English Standard Version of the Bible, unless otherwise noted.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Philip Ryken is the Bible teacher on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ weekly radio broadcast, Every Last Word, and is a member of the Alliance Council. Dr. Ryken also serves as president of Wheaton College. He was educated at Wheaton College (IL), Westminster Theological Seminary (PA), and the University of Oxford (UK), from which he received his doctorate in historical theology. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis and He Speaks to Me Everywhere: Meditations on Christianity and Culture.

BOOK REVIEW: James Hamilton’s – “WHAT IS BIBLICAL THEOLOGY?”

A GUIDE TO THE BIBLE’S STORY, SYMBOLISM, AND PATTERNS

WIBT? Hamilton

Book Review by David P. Craig

My wife and I have a tradition that we have practiced over our 21 years of marriage. Once every two to three years we plan a trip somewhere in the United States we’ve never been to before. We have gone to Boston, Washington D.C., New York, Seattle, Honolulu, Minneapolis, Orlando, Austin, San Diego, and several others. Before we go to the city we buy a really good map that gives us the lay of the land. Once we are there the first thing we do is go on a city-wide bus tour. In doing these two things it helps us to appreciate the history of the city, landmarks, and highlights we don’t want to miss during our stay. We get an overview and the big picture of the city before we enjoy its constituent parts.

Hamiton’s book is like a map or tour of the Bible. He helps you not to miss the most important stories, symbols, and patterns that are featured in the Scriptures. All of the biblical authors do “biblical theology.” They have a framework or world-view through which they interpret and describe the events, stories, and principles through this lens. All of the authors interpret Scripture in three ways (1) They interpret the words or accounts of God’s words and deeds that have been passed down to him; (2) They interpret world history from its creation to its final consummation; and (3) They interpret events and statements that they describe. According to Hamilton biblical theology in essence “means the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses.”

By taking into account the different genres of Scripture and their various themes, Hamilton helps the reader appreciate the biblical “lay of the land” in it’s varied history, and its consummation centered around the gospel and the glory of God in Christ. I think the thesis of this book is wonderfully expressed by Hamilton in the second chapter: “Our aim is to trace out the contours of the network of assumptions reflected in the writings of the biblical authors. If we can see what the biblical authors assumed about story, symbol, and church, we will glimpse the world as they saw it. To catch a glimpse of the world as they saw it is to see the real world.”

I believe this book is indeed a fantastic guide in helping all Bible students to understand, appreciate, and enjoy the biblical message intended by the author of the word – the Word – Jesus himself. We learn how to read, understand, and interpret the Bible from the perspective of the biblical authors, which is to learn a divinely inspired perspective. I believe that Hamilton achieves his hope and desired purpose for everyone who reads this book: “My hope is that you cross the bridge into their [the biblical authors] thought-world and never come back. I hope you will breathe the air of the Bible’s world, recognize it as the real Narnia, and never want to leave.”

The Power of the Gospel Over Idolatry in the 21st Century

Idols of the Heart and “Vanity Fair”

A Classic Article by Dr. David Powlison

One of the great questions facing Christians in the social sciences and helping professions is this one: How do we legitimately and meaningfully connect the conceptual stock of the Bible and Christian tradition with the technical terminologies and observational riches of the behavioral sciences?  Within this perennial question, two particular sub-questions have long intrigued and perplexed me.

One sort of question is a Bible relevancy question.  Why is idolatry so important in the Bible?  Idolatry is by far the most frequently discussed problem in the Scriptures.1 So what? Is the problem of idolatry even relevant today, except on certain mission fields where worshipers still bow to images?

The second kind of question is a counseling question, a “psychology” question.  How do we make sense of the myriad significant factors that shape and determine human behavior?  In particular, can we ever make satisfying sense of the fact that people are simultaneously inner-directed and socially-shaped?

These questions-and their answers-eventually intertwined.  That intertwining has been fruitful both in my personal life and in my counseling of troubled people.

THE RELATIONSHIP OF INDIVIDUAL MOTIVATION TO SOCIOLOGICAL CONDITIONING

The relevance of massive chunks of Scripture hangs on our understanding of idolatry.  But let me focus the question through a particular verse in the New Testament which long troubled me.  The last line of 1 John woos, then commands us: “Beloved children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).  In a 105-verse treatise on living in vital fellowship with Jesus, the Son of God, how on earth does that unexpected command merit being the final word?  Is it perhaps a scribal emendation?  Is it an awkwardfaux pas by a writer who typically weaves dense and orderly tapestries of meaning with simple, repetitive language?  Is it a culture-bound, practical application tacked onto the end of one of the most timeless and heaven-dwelling epistles?  Each of these alternatives misses the integrity and power of John’s final words.

Instead, John’s last line properly leaves us with that most basic question which God continually poses to each human heart.  Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight?  It is a question bearing on the immediate motivation for one’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings.  In the Bible’s conceptualization, the motivation question is the lordship question.  Who or what “rules” my behavior, the Lord or a substitute?  The undesirable answers to this question—answers which inform our understanding of the “idolatry” we are to avoid—are most graphically presented in 1 John 2:15-17, 3:7-10, 4:1-6, and 5:19. It is striking how these verses portray a confluence of the “sociological,” the “psychological,” and the “demonological” perspectives on idolatrous motivation.2

The inwardness of motivation is captured by the inordinate and proud “desires of the flesh” (1 John 2:16), our inertial self-centeredness, the wants, hopes, fears, expectations, “needs” that crowd our hearts.  The externality of motivation is captured by “the world” (1 John 2:15-17,4:1-6), all that invites, models, reinforces, and conditions us into such inertia, teaching us lies.  The “demonological” dimension of motivation is the Devil’s behavior-determining lordship (1 John 3:7-10,5:19), standing as a ruler over his kingdom of flesh and world.  In contrast, to “keep yourself from idols” is to live with a whole heart of faith in Jesus. It is to be controlled by all that lies behind the address “beloved children” (see especially 1 John 3:1-3,4:7-5:12).  The alternative to Jesus, the swarm of alternatives, whether approached through the lens of flesh, world, or the Evil One, is idolatry.

An Internal Problem

The notion of idolatry most often emerges in discussions of the worship of actual physical images, the creation of false gods.  But the Scriptures develop the idolatry theme in at least two major directions pertinent to my discussion here.  First, the Bible internalizes the problem.  “Idols of the heart” are graphically portrayed in Ezekiel 14:1-8.  The worship of tangible idols is, ominously, an expression of a prior heart defection from YHWH your God.3 “Idols of the heart” is only one of many metaphors which move the locus of God’s concerns into the human heart, establishing an unbreakable bond between specifics of heart and specifics of behavior: hands, tongue, and all the other members.  The First Great Commandment, to “love God heart, soul, mind, and might,” also demonstrates the essential “inwardness” of the law regarding idolatry.  The language of love, trust, fear, hope, seeking, serving—terms describing a relationship to the true God—is continually utilized in the Bible to describe our false loves, false trusts, false fears, false hopes, false pursuits, false masters.

If “idolatry” is the characteristic and summary Old Testament word for our drift from God, then “desires” (epithumiai) is the characteristic and summary New Testament word for the same drift.4 Both are shorthand for the problem of human beings.  The New Testament language of problematic “desires” is a dramatic expansion of the tenth commandment, which forbids coveting (epithumia).  The tenth commandment is also a command that internalizes the problem of sin, making sin “psychodynamic.”  It lays bare the grasping and demanding nature of the human heart, as Paul powerfully describes it in Romans 7.  Interestingly (and unsurprisingly) the New Testament merges the concept of idolatry and the concept of inordinate, life-ruling desires.  Idolatry becomes a problem of the heart, a metaphor for human lust, craving, yearning, and greedy demand.5

A Social Problem

Second, the Bible treats idolatry as a central feature of the social context, “the world,” which shapes and molds us.  The world is a “Vanity Fair,” as John Bunyan strikingly phrased it in Pilgrim’s Progress.6Bunyan’s entire book, and the Vanity Fair section in particular, can be seen as portraying the interaction of powerful, enticing, and intimidating social shapers of behavior with the self-determining tendencies of Christian’s own heart.  Will Christian serve the Living God or any of a fluid multitude of idols crafted by his wife, neighbors, acquaintances, enemies, fellow members of idolatrous human society…and, ultimately, his own heart?7

That idolatries are both generated from within and insinuated from without has provocative implications for contemporary counseling questions.  Of course, the Bible does not tackle our contemporary issues in psychological jargon or using our observational data.8 Yet, for example, the Bible lacks the rich particulars of what psychologists today might describe as a “dysfunctional family or marital system” only because it does not put those particular pieces of human behavior and mutual influence under the microscope.  The “lack” is only in specific application.  The biblical categories do comprehend how individuals in a family system—or any other size or kind of social grouping—work and influence one another for good or ill.  For example, the life patterns often labeled “codependency” are more precisely and penetratingly understood as instances of “co-idolatry.”  In the case of a “co-idolatrous relationship,” then, two people’s typical idol patterns reinforce and compete with each other.  They fit together in an uncanny way, creating massively destructive feedback loops.

The classic alcoholic husband and rescuing wife are enslaved within an idol system whose components complement each other all too well.  There are many possible configurations to this common pattern of false gods.  In one typical configuration, the idol constellation in the husband’s use of alcohol might combine a ruling and enslaving love of pleasure, the escapist pursuit of a false savior from the pains and frustrations in his life, playing the angry and self-righteous judge of his wife’s clinging and dependent ways, the self-crucifying of his periodic remorse, a trust in man which seeks personal validation through acceptance by his bar companions, and so forth.

The idol pattern in the wife’s rescuing behavior might combine playing the martyred savior of her husband and family, playing the proud and self-righteous judge of her husband’s iniquity, a trust in man which overvalues the opinions of her friends, a fear of man which generates an inordinate desire for a male’s love and affection as crucial to her survival, and so forth.  Each of their idols (and consequent behavior, thoughts, and emotions) is “logical” within the idol system, the miniature Vanity Fair of allurements and threats within which both live.  Their idols sometimes are modeled, taught, and encouraged by the other person(s) involved: her nagging and his anger mirror and magnify each other; his bar buddies and her girl friends reinforce their respective self-righteousness and self-pity. The idols sometimes are reactive and compensatory to the other person: he reacts to her nagging with drinking, and she reacts to his drinking by trying to rescue and to change him. Vanity Fair is an ever so tempting…hell on earth.

Spiritual Counterfeits

Idols counterfeit aspects of God’s identity and character, as can be seen in the vignette above: Judge, savior, source of blessing, sin-bearer, object of trust, author of a will which must be obeyed, and so forth.  Each idol that clusters in the system makes false promises and gives false warnings: “if only…then….”  For example, the wife’s “enabling” behavior expresses an idolatrous playing of the savior.  This idol promises and warns her, “If only you can give the right thing and can make it all better, then your husband will change.  But if you don’t cover for him, then disaster will occur.”  Because both the promises and warnings are lies, service to each idol results in a hangover of misery and accursedness.  Idols lie, enslave, and murder.  They are continually insinuated by the one who was a liar, slave master and murderer from the beginning.  They are under the immediate wrath of God who frequently does not allow such things to work well in His world.9
The simple picture of idolatry—a worshiper prostrated before a figure of wood, metal or stone—is powerfully extended by the Bible.  Idolatry becomes a concept with which to comprehend the intricacies of both individual motivation and social conditioning.  The idols of the heart lead us to defect from God in many ways.  They manifest and express themselves everywhere, down to the minute details of both inner and outer life.  Such idols of the heart fit hand in glove with the wares offered in the Vanity Fair of social life.  The invitations and the threats of our social existence beguile us towards defection into idolatries.  These themes provide a foundational perspective on the “bad news” that pervades the Bible.

In sum, behavioral sins are always portrayed in the Bible as “motivated” or ruled by a “god” or “gods.”  The problem in human motivation—the question of practical covenantal allegiance, God or any of the substitutes—is frequently and usefully portrayed as the problem of idolatry.  Idolatry is a problem both rooted deeply in the human heart and powerfully impinging on us from our social environment.

This brings us squarely to the second kind of question mentioned at the outset.  This second question is a counseling question.  How on earth do we put together the following three things?  First, people are responsible for their behavioral sins.  Whether called sin, personal problems, or dysfunctional living, people are responsible for the destructive things which they think, feel and do.10 If I am violent or fearful, that is my problem.

Second, people with problems come from families or marriages or sub-cultures where the other people involved also have problems.  People suffer and are victimized and misguided by the destructive things other people think, want, fear, value, feel, and do.  These may be subtle environmental influences: social shaping via modeling of attitudes and the like.  These may be acutely traumatic influences: loss or victimization.  My problems are often embedded in a tight feedback loop with your problems.  If you attack me, I tend to strike back or withdraw in fear. Your problem shapes my problems.

Third, behavior is motivated from the inside by complex, life-driving patterns of thoughts, desires, fears, views of the world, and the like, of which a person may be almost wholly unaware.  We may be quite profoundly self-deceived about what pilots and propels us.  My behavioral violence or avoidance manifests patterns of expectation that own me.  “You might hurt me…so I’d better keep my distance or attack first.”  My behavior is a strategy which expresses my motives: my trusts, my wants, my fears, my “felt needs.”  Such motives range along a spectrum from the consciously calculating to the blindly compulsive.

How are we—and those we counsel—simultaneously socially conditioned, self-deceived, and responsible for our behavior without any factor cancelling out the others?!  That is the question of the social and behavioral sciences (and it is the place they all fail when they excise God).  It is also the question that any Christian counselor must attempt to answer both in theory and practice in a way that reflects Christ’s mind.  The Bible’s view of man—both individual and social life—alone holds these things together.

A Three-Way Tension

Motives are simply what move us, the causes of or inducements to action, both the causal “spring” of life and the telic “goal” of life.11 The notion of motivation captures the inward-drivenness and goal-oriented nature of human life in its most important and troublesome features.  All psychologies grapple with these issues.  But no psychology has conceptual resources adequate to make sense of the interface between responsible behavior, a shaping social milieu, and a heart which is both self-deceived and life-determining.

Here are some examples.  Moralism—the working psychology of the proverbial man on the street—sticks with responsible behavior.  Complex causalities are muted in toto.  Behavioral psychologies see both drives and rewards but cast their lot with the milieu, taking drives as untransformable givens.  Both responsible behavior and a semi-conscious but renewable heart are muted.  Humanistic psychologies see the interplay of inner desire/need with external fulfillment or frustration but cast their final vote for human self-determination.  Both responsible behavior and the power of extrinsic forces are muted.  Ego psychologies see the twisted conflict between heart’s desire and well-internalized social contingencies.  But the present milieu and responsible behavior are muted. It is hard to keep three seemingly simple elements together.

Unity ‘with Respect to God’

The Bible—the voice of the Maker of humankind, in other words!—speaks to the same set of issues with a uniquely unified vision.  There is no question that we are morally responsible: our works or fruit count.  There is no question that fruit comes from an inner root to which we are often blind.  “Idols of the heart,” “desires of the flesh,” “fear of man,” “love of money,” “chasing after…,” “earthly-minded,” “pride,” and a host of other word pictures capture well the biblical view of inner drives experienced as deceptively self-evident needs or goals.  There is also no question that we are powerfully constrained by social forces around us.  The “world,” “Vanity Fair,” “the counsel of the wicked,” “false prophets,” “temptation and trial,” and the like capture something of the influences upon us.  Other people model and purvey false laws or false standards, things which misdefine value and stigma, blessedness and accursedness, the way of life, and the way of death.  They sin against us.  God quite comfortably juxtaposes these three simple things which tend to fly apart in human formulations.  I am responsible for my sins: “Johnny is a bad boy.” My will is in bondage: “Johnny can’t help it.”  I am deceived and led about by others: “Johnny got in with a bad crowd.” How can these be simultaneously true?

The answer, which all the psychologies and sociologies miss, is actually quite simple.  Human motivation is always “with respect to God.”  The social and behavioral sciences miss this “intentionality,” because they themselves are idolatrously motivated.  In a massive irony, they build into their charter and methodology a blindness to the essential nature of their subject matter.

Human motivation is intrinsic neither to the individual nor to human society.  Human motivation is never strictly psychological or psycho-social or psycho-social-somatic.  It is not strictly either psychodynamic or sociological or biological or any combination of these.  These terms are at best metaphors for components in a unitary phenomenon which is essentially religious or covenantal.  Motivation is always God-relational.  Thus human motivation is not essentially the sort of unitary species-wide phenomenon that the human sciences pursue.  It is encountered and observed in actual life as an intrinsically binary phenomenon: faith or idolatry.  The only unitary point in human motives is the old theological construct: human beings are worshiping creatures, willy-nilly.  Seeing this, the Bible’s view alone can unify the seemingly contradictory elements in the explanation of behavior.

The deep question of motivation is not “What is motivating me?”  The final question is,“Who is the master of this pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior?”  In the biblical view, we are religious, inevitably bound to one god or another.  People do not have needs.  We have masters, lords, gods, be they oneself, other people, valued objects, Satan.  The metaphor of an idolatrous heart and society capture the fact that human motivation bears an automatic relationship to God: Who, other than the true God, is my god?  Let me give two examples, one dear to the heart of behaviorists and the other dear to the heart of humanistic psychologists.

Hunger as Idolatry

When a “hunger drive” propels my life or a segment of my life, I am actually engaging in religious behavior.  I—”the flesh”—have become my own god, and food has become the object of my will, desires, and fears.  The Bible observes the same mass of motives which the behavioral sciences see as a “primary drive.”  Something biological is certainly going on. Something psychological, and even sociological, is going on.  But the Bible’s conceptualization differs radically.  I am not “hunger¬driven.” I am “hunger-driven-rather-than-God-driven.”

We are meant to relate to food by thankfully eating what we know we have received and by sharing generously.  I am an active idolater when normal hunger pangs are the wellspring of problem behavior and attitudes.  Normal desires tend to become inordinate and enslaving.  The various visible sins which can attend such an idolatry—gluttony, anxiety, thanklessness, food obsessions and “eating disorders,” irritability when dinner is delayed, angling to get the bigger piece of pie, miserliness, eating to feel good, and the like—make perfect sense as outworkings of the idol that constrains my heart.12 Problem behavior roots in the heart and has to do with God.

The idolatries inhabiting our relations with food, however, are as social as they are biological or psychological.  Perhaps my father modeled identical attitudes.  Perhaps my mother used food to get love and to quell anxiety.  Perhaps they went through the Great Depression and experienced severe privation, which has left its mark on them and made food a particular object of anxiety.  Perhaps food has always been my family’s drug of choice.  Perhaps food is the medium through which love, happiness, anger and power are expressed.  Perhaps I am bombarded with provocative food advertisements.  The variations and permutations are endless.

Membership in the society of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam ensures that we will each be a food idolater in one way or another.13 Membership in American consumer society shapes that idolatry into typical forms.  A complex system of idolatrous values can be attached to food.  For example, we characteristically lust for a great variety of foodstuffs.  Food plays a role in the images of beauty and strength which we serve, in desires for health and fears of death.  Food—the quantities and types prepared, the modes of preparation and consumption—is a register of social status.  Membership in a famished Ethiopian society would have shaped the generic idolatry into different typical forms.  Membership in the micro-society of my family further particularizes the style of food idolatry: for example, perhaps in our family system hunger legitimized irritability, and eating was salvific, delivering us from destroying our family with anger.  Yet in all these levels of social participation, my individuality is not lost.  I put my own idiosyncratic stamp on food idolatry.  For example, perhaps I am peculiarly enslaved to Fritos when tense and peculiarly nervous about whether red food dyes are carcinogenic!

Security as Idolatry

Behaviorists speak of “drives” and tend to “lower” the focus to the ways we are most similar to animals.  Humanists and existentialists, on the other hand, speak of “needs” and tend to “raise” the focus to uniquely human social and existential goals.  But the same critique applies.  When a “need for security” propels my life or a segment of my life, I am again engaging in religious behavior.  Rather than serving the true God, the god I serve is the approval and respect of people, either myself or others.  I am an idolater.  I am not “motivated by a need for security.”  I am “motivated by a lust for security rather than ruled by God.”  Or, since desire and fear are complementary perspectives on human motivation, “I fear man” instead of “I fear and trust God.”  Need theories, like drive theories, can never comprehend the “rather than God,” which is always built into the issue of human motivation.  They can never comprehend the fundamental idolatry issue, which sees that the things which typically drive us really exist as inordinate desires of the flesh that are direct alternatives to submitting to the desires of the Spirit.

Our lusts for security, of course, are tutored as well as spontaneous.  “Vanity Fair” operates as effectively here as it does with our hunger.  Powerful and persuasive people woo and intimidate us that we might trust or fear them.  In convicting us of our false trusts and acknowledging the potency of the pressures on us, the Scriptures again offer us the liberating alternative of knowing the Lord.14

Idols: A Secondary Development?

When the conceptual structures of humanistic psychology are “baptized” by Christians, the fundamental “rather than God” at the bottom of human motivation continues to be missed.  For example, many Christian counselors absolutize a need or yearning for love.  As observant human beings, they accurately see that fallen and cursed people are driven to seek stability, love, acceptance, and affirmation, and that we look for such blessings in empty idols.  As committed Christians they often want to lead people to trust Jesus Christ rather than their idols.  But they improperly insert an a priori and unitary relational need, an in-built yearning or empty love tank as underpinning the heart’s subsequent divide between faith and idolatry.

They baptize this “need,” describing it as God-created.  Idolatry becomes an improper way to meet a legitimate need, and our failure to love others becomes a product of unmet needs.  The Gospel of Christ is redefined as the proper way to meet this need.  In this theory then, idolatry is only a secondary development: our idols are wrong ways to meet legitimate needs.  Repentance from idolatry is thus also secondary, being instrumental to the satisfaction of needs.  Such satisfaction is construed to be the primary content of God’s good news in Christ.  Biblically, however, idolatry is the primary motivational factor.  We fail to love people because we are idolaters who love neither God nor neighbor.  We become objectively insecure because we abide under God’s curse and because other people are just as self-centered as we are.  We create and experience estrangement from both God and other people.  The love of God teaches us to repent of our “need for love,” seeing it as a lust, receiving merciful real love, and beginning to learn how to love rather than being consumed with getting love.

Humans lust after all sorts of good things and false gods—including love—in attempting to escape the rule of God.  The love-need psychologies do not dethrone the inner sanctum of our heart’s idolatry.  Structurally, the logic of love-need systems is analogous to the “health and wealth” false gospels.  Jesus gives you what you deeply yearn for without challenging those yearnings.

It is no surprise that, for good or ill, love-need psychology only rings the bells of certain kinds of counselees, who are particularly attuned to the wavelength of what we might call the intimacy idols.  Such theories lack appeal and effectiveness “cross-culturally” to people and places where the reigning idols are not intimacy idols but, for example, power, status, sensual pleasure, success, or money.  A love-need system must interpret such idols reductionistically, as displacements or compensatory versions of the “real need” which motivates people.

The Bible is simpler.  Any one of the idols may have an independent hold on the human heart. Idols may reduce to one another in part: for example, a man with an intractable pornography and lust problem may be significantly helped by repentantly realizing that his lust expresses a tantrum over a frustrated desire to be married, a desire which he has never recognized as idolatrous.  Idols can be compounded on top of idols.  But sexual lust has its own valid primary existence as an idol as well.  A biblical understanding of the idolatry motif explains why need models seem plausible and also thoroughly remakes the model.  In biblical reality— in reality, in other words!—there is no such thing as that neutral, normal and a priori love need at the root of human motivation.

The biblical theme of idolatry provides a penetrating tool for understanding both the springs of and the inducements to sinful behavior.  The causes of particular sins, whether “biological drives,” “psychodynamic forces from within,” “socio-cultural conditioning from without,” or “demonic temptation and attack” can be truly comprehended through the lens of idolatry.  Such comprehension plows the field for Christian counseling to become Christian in deed as well as name, to become ministry of the many-faceted good news of Jesus Christ.

CASE STUDY AND ANALYSIS

Using a case study of a hurt-angry-fearful person, this article will now explore in greater detail the relationship between “world” and “heart” in the production of complex and dysfunctional behaviors, emotional responses, cognitive processes, and attitudes.

Wally is a 33-year-old man.15 He has been married to Ellen for eight years.  They have two children.  He is a highly committed Christian.  He works for his church half time as an administrator and building overseer and half time in a diaconal ministry of mercy among inner city poor.  He and his wife sought counseling after an explosion in their often-simmering marriage.  He became enraged and beat her up.  Then he ran away, threatening never to come back.  He reappeared three days later, full of guilt, remorse, and a global sense of failure.

The current marital problems are exacerbated versions of long-standing problems: anger, inability to deeply reconcile, threats of violence alternating with threats of suicide, depression, workaholism alternating with escapism, a pattern of moderate drinking when under stress, generally poor communication, use of pornography, and loneliness.  Wally has no close friends.

Several years ago Wally became involved sexually with a woman he was working with diaconally: “I know it was wrong, but I just felt so bad for her and how rough she’d had it that I found myself trying to comfort her physically.”  He broke it off, and Ellen forgave him; but both acknowledge there has been a residue of guilt and mistrust.

He oscillates between “the flame-thrower and the deep freeze.”  On the one hand he can be abrasive, manipulative, angry, and unforgiving.  On the other hand he withdraws, feels hurt, anxious, guilty, and afraid of people.  He oscillates between anger at Ellen’s “bossiness, nagging, controlling me, not supporting me or listening to me” and depression at his own sins.  Her patterns and his create a feedback system in which each tends to bring out and reinforce the worst in the other.

Wally grew up in a secular, Jewish, working class family.  He was born when his father was 52 years old and his mother, 42.  By dint of hard work, long hours, and scraping by, they bought a house in a relatively affluent WASP suburb shortly after Wally was born.  Wally’s father was a critical man, impossible to please.  “If I got all A’s with one B, it was ‘What’s this?’  If I mowed and raked the lawn, it was ‘You missed a spot behind the garage.’”

After his retirement at age 70, Wally’s father became “much more mellow; and, with my having become a Christian and trying to forgive him, our relationship wasn’t half bad the last five years of his life.”  His mother was “well-meaning, nice, but ineffective, totally intimidated by my Dad.”  Wally had been a bit of a “weirdo” in high school: “I never matched up to the bourgeois values. I was too smart, too uncoordinated, too ugly, too shy, too awkward, and too poor to cut it in school.”

Wally became a Christian during his first year in college and immediately gravitated towards work with the poor and downcast.  “I have little sympathy for rich, suburban Christians; but I love the poor, the single parents, the ex-addicts, the psychiatric patients, the ex-cons, the orphans and widows, the handicapped, the losers.”  His Christian commitment is intense and life-dominating.  He loves Jesus Christ.  He believes the Gospel.  He desires to share Christ with others.  He knows what his behavioral sins are, but he feels trapped.  “I just react instinctively.  Then I feel guilty.  You know the pattern!”

Financially, Wally and Ellen are not well off.  They are not extravagant spenders, but they face continual financial decisions: Dental work for the children?  Should we buy a house?  Should we take a vacation or work side jobs to earn a little extra money?  How many hours a week should Ellen try to work outside the home?  Can we really afford to tithe?  Should we accede to the kids’ desire for a VCR?  They live month to month, and the bill cycle periodically creates quite a bit of stress.

How are Christian counselors to understand Wally in order to help him?

“Vanity Fair”: The Sociology of Idolatry

Idols define good and evil in ways contrary to God’s definitions.  They establish a locus of control that is earth-bound: either in objects (e.g., lust for money), other people (“I need to please my critical father”), or myself (e.g., self-trusting pursuit of my personal agenda).  Such false gods create false laws, false definitions of success and failure, of value and stigma.  Idols promise blessing and warn of curses for those who succeed or fail against the law: “If you get a large enough IRA, you will be secure.  If I can get certain people to like and respect me, then my life is valid.”  There are numerous idolatrous values which influenced Wally and continue to pressure him: beguiling him, frightening him, controlling him, constraining him, enslaving him.

His father’s perfectionistic demands were one of the prominent idols impressed into Wally’s personal history: “You must please me in whatever way I determine.”  Wally believed his father’s sinful, lying demand.  “Fear of man” describes the phenomenon from the psychological side of the equation, a particular “idol of the heart.”  “Oppression” and “injustice” describe his father’s powerful demands on the sociological side.  We see the dominion of a father whose leadership style was that of a tyrant-king, not that of a servant-king promoting the well-being of his son.16 In essence, he lied, bullied, enslaved, and condemned.  “I can remember lying on my bed while my Dad went on and on lecturing me, ranting and raving.”  Wally was conditioned to be very concerned with what significant people thought of him.  At the same time Wally bought the idol.  He is simultaneously a victim and guilty.  He was abused by powerful idols operative within his family system.  He also instinctively both bought into those idols and produced his own competitive idols.

Relationships are rarely static.  There were various sides and various phases to Wally’s relationship with his father’s critical opinion.  At times Wally temporarily succeeded in pleasing his father and felt good about himself.  At other times he failed in his father’s eyes, earning only scorn for being “a spaz, girlishly emotional.”  At other times he obsessively, almost maniacally, strived to please his father.  He once spent a summer, with dismal results, trying to learn to dribble a basketball in a way that did not “look like a six-year-old girl.”  Some of the classic “low self-esteem” symptom patterns were established in this crucible.

At other times Wally rebelled against his father and his father’s implacable demands.  He pitted his will against his father.  Being highly intelligent, he was formidable and creative as a rebel.  In his teens he succeeded in driving his father half crazy by setting up contrary value systems (serving contrary idols): rock music, bizarre dress and hairstyle, left-wing politics, marijuana use.  One idol—”I need to please my father”—led into another—”I’ll do what I want and set myself in opposition to my father.”17

There are even elements in Wally’s conversion to Christianity which might be construed as part of this tendency to define himself in opposition to his father’s secular, ethnic Jewish, upwardly mobile culture.  His Christianity could be used at times to torment his father.  Idols are fluid.  The rebellious stance ultimately became Wally’s predominant long-term commitment and undergirds a certain low-grade resentment he still feels at the memory of his father, now five years dead.  But rebellion is not unmixed.  It can be tinctured with regrets, a sense of failure, or even with merciful and gentle tendencies.  “Sometimes I think I have really come to peace with my father—an honest, merciful peace that Christ has painstakingly wrought in me.  At other times I know I lose it and react like the wounded and proud animal I once was.”

Wally’s father was not static either.  In his later years he mellowed considerably.  Wally’s Christian faith and his father’s evolution into a gentler man combined to bring a fair measure of kindness and forgiveness into the relationship.  It became peaceable but never warm.  Idols have a history, a “shelf life.”18 Vanity Fair evolves.  A demanding father became a less demanding father who eventually promulgated a friendlier idol: he wanted to bask in the warmth of “family” and retirement.  Our hearts also evolve.  A youth with a compulsion to please became a young man who half wanted to please and half rebelled.  The young man became a middle-aged man driven and haunted by some of the same patterns of contradictory compulsions, even after his earthly father’s death.  Wally both lusts after the approval and respect of people and yet rebels and isolates himself in his pride.

Multiple Idols

We become infested with idols.  The idolatrous patterns in Wally’s relationship with his father manifest in other relationships.  Wally has had ongoing problems with authority figures in school, the military, work, and the church.  He has had the same sorts of problems with his wife, friends, and even his children.  Naturally, he brings this same pattern into the counseling relationship, with all the challenges that creates for building trust and a working relationship.  He continues to manifest a typical stew of associated problems: a slavish desire to be approved, a deep suspicion that he won’t be approved, a stubborn independency.

We have attended in some detail to the way in which his father’s demandingness constituted an idol system which staked out a claim in Wally’s affections.  We will give less detail to other influences, though each might be explored in equal detail.  His mother’s passivity in the face of conflict set a model for him which still frequently colors his relationship to Ellen.  The “bourgeois values” of his high school peer culture—dating, athletics, scoring sexually, looks, clothes, money, “cool”—also marked him out as a failure and fueled both his rebellion and his sense of shameful inadequacy.  He bought the bourgeois values and failed against them.  He rebelled against those values and bought the alternative values of the drug culture, in which he succeeded.  He rebelled against both straights and druggies and isolated himself as a world of one, which sometimes worked and sometimes failed.  All these things happened, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes successively.

Even the counterculture values of his “radical Christian” subculture can be understood in part as an idolatrous narrowing of the Christian life in reaction to the opposite idolatrous equation of Christianity with the American Dream.  Certain biblical goods are magnified to the exclusion of other biblical goods.  In various ways Wally continues to play out a three-fold theme.  First, he typically rebels against certain dominant “successful people” cultures.  Second, he finds his validity in the affirmation of a “down-and-out” subculture.  Third, all the while he acts in idiosyncratic pride to create his own culture-of-one in which he plays king, and his opinions on anything from the dinner to eschatology are self-evident truth.

“Who can understand the heart of man?!”  And who can understand the world that negotiates with that heart?!  Wally and the myriad forces which impinge on him elude exhaustive, rational analysis.  Yet we can describe enough of what goes on in his complex heart and complex world to minister helpfully to him.  And the Wally we meet today is only today’s Wally, not the Wally of some prior point in his personal history.  Biblical counsel, the mind of Christ about Wally’s life, can be given.  Wisdom, the nourishing and honeyed tongue, can make satisfying and convicting sense of things, and Wally can learn to live, think, and act with such wisdom.

Many other idol systems and sub-systems impinge on Wally.  Some are the same players Bunyan described in his Vanity Fair: cultural attitudes, values, fears, and opportunities which circle around money, sex, food, power, success, or comfort.  Certain gentle-faced idols—the mass media, professional sports, and the alcohol industry—woo him with temporary compensations and false, escapist saviors from the pressures generated by his slavery to the harsh, terrifying idols which enslave and whip him along at other times: “I must perform. I must prove myself.  Everyone I respect must like me.  What if I fail?”

Some of the other idol systems which daily impact on Wally are found within the marital system and the family system.  Ellen’s and the children’s values and desires provoke and persuade Wally in various ways.  If Ellen worries about money, if the children get swept up with complaining when they do not get what they want, if Ellen nags Wally with expectations of moralistic behavioral change, Wally is variously worried, angry, compliant, depressed, defensive, full of denial, or whatever else, depending on how he interfaces with the particular micro-society that is constraining him.19

This way of exploring “What rules me?” is “sociological.”  False gods are highly catching!  With good reason both Old and New Testaments abound with warnings against participating in pagan cultures and associating with idolaters, fools, false teachers, angry people, and the like.  Our enemies not only hurt us, they also tempt us to be like them.  False voices are not figments which the individual soul hallucinates.  “World” complements “flesh” to constitute monolithic evil: the manufacture of idols instead of worship of the true God.

If we would help people have eyes and ears for God, we must know well which alternative gods clamor for their attention.  These forces and shaping influences neither determine nor excuse our sins.  But they do nurture, channel, and exacerbate our sinfulness in particular directions.  They are often atmospheric, invisible, unconscious influences.  Conscious repentance begins to thrive where I see both my own distortions and the distortions impinging upon me from others.  Both tempt me, and I must battle both.

Scripture is sensitive to sociological forces without compromising human responsibility.  But, of course, idols are also “in here” in our hearts, determining the course of our lives.  In the discussion above, Wally’s heart response to his environment—idols of the heart—continually intruded.  The two are impossible to disentangle absolutely.  But in the next section I will look in greater detail at the more psychological dimension of idolatry.

Idols of the Heart: the Psychology of Idolatry

At the simplest level Wally both imbibed the idols to which he was exposed and creatively fabricated his own.  He has variously succeeded, failed, or rebelled against various value systems.  But in each case he nurtures and serves numerous unbiblical values.  His life implicitly validates many lies.  His heart is deeply divided between the true God and idols.  Is he a Christian?  Yes.  But the ongoing work of renewal must engage him genuinely over the particular patterns of idolatry that functionally substitute for faith in Christ.  There has been a measure of genuine fruit in his life.  But there has been a measure of bending the true God to the agenda of the flesh.

Idols are rarely solitary.  Our lives become infested with them.  Wally is psychologically controlled by a lush variety of false gods.  For example, he typically oscillates between “pride” and the “fear of man.”20Pride or “playing god” generates one set of sins: anger, manipulation, compulsions to control people and circumstances, a “Type A personality,” rebellion against parents and the bourgeois.  The fear of man or “making others into god” generates another set: self-consciousness, fears, depression, failure, anxiety, withdrawal, a gnawing sense of inferiority, chameleon behavior.  They work hand in hand to produce his “perfectionism,” both in its anxious and its demanding aspects: “My performance in your eyes.  Your performance in my eyes.”

Many other gods wait in the wings, playing occasional bit parts in the drama of Wally’s life.  At times Wally’s god is a lust for escapist comfort from the pressure cooker he creates.  Alcohol abuse, TV watching, video games and pornography provide fleeting escape.  At times he is owned by a desire to “help” people.  He becomes obsessed with his ministry, angry at any who hinder it, prone to become messianic (and even adulterous), justifying any doubtful actions on his part by reference to the supreme value of “my ministry.”  Of course, this is only a sampler.  Any of scores of particular lesser gods can appear in the temple of his heart depending on traffic conditions, the weather, how his wife treats him, how his children do in school, etc.

The real Wally is irreducibly complex!  Even as I portray Wally in broad strokes, it is clear that his life emerges from an ever-shifting mosaic of false loyalties.  This noted, are there hierarchies of idols or prepotent idols of unusual significance in Wally’s case?  Yes, there are.  Wally’s life may well play out typical, oft-repeated themes.  He is a “type” in a loose sense, though he can never be reduced to a rigid diagnostic type because of the myriads of fluid idols which constrain him.  Certain idols strike me as predominant in Wally.  “Pride” (I play god) and “fear of man” (I install you as god) are crucial.  One finds variations on the themes of “I want my way” and “How do I perform in your eyes?” endlessly repeated in Wally’s life.  Demand and fear take turns in the spotlight.  Other typically dominant idols—sexual pleasure, money, etc.—certainly have their say in Wally’s life but have a more low-grade, nagging quality, which in a different counselee might be greatly intensified.

It is striking how biblical categories—the idol motif, in this case—stay close to the concrete details of life and do not speculate abstract typologies.  The bedrock similarities between people tend to be brought into view.  In our psychologized culture we are used to definitive analyses of Wally and others according to a typology.  He is a type-A person.  He is a Pleaser.  He is a Controller.  He is a combination of melancholic and choleric temperaments.  He is a typical ACOA or member of a dysfunctional family.  His root sin is anger.  His problem is low self-esteem.  In DSM-III categories he is a…, and so forth.  Such statements tend to pass for significant knowledge.  In fact, they are not explanations for anything but are simply ways of describing common clusters of symptoms.

Root Idols?

Given the prevalence of this mode of typing people, it might be expected that we could say something like, “His root idol is….”  But the data on idolatry does not generally support such reductionistic understandings of the human heart.21 At best we can make the softer claim, “His most characteristic idol is…usually…but at other times…!”  For purely heuristic purposes it may be useful to notice that one person is particularly attuned to the intimacy idols, another to avoidance idols, another to power idols, another to comfort idols, another to pleasure idols, another to religiosity idols, and so forth.  A person’s style of sin—”characteristic flesh” in Richard Lovelace’s graphic term22—may tend to cluster habitually around particular predominant idols.

But sin is creative as well as habitual!  We should not forget that the reductionism the Bible consistently offers is not a typology that distinguishes people from each other but is a summary comment that highlights our commonalities: all have turned aside from God, “each to his own way,” “doing what was right in his own eyes.”23 Under this master categorization the temple teems with potential shapes for idols and false gods.  The rampant and proliferating desires (plural) of the flesh contend with the Spirit and clamor for our faith and obedience.  Typologies are pseudo-explanations.  They are descriptive, not analytical, though as conceptual tools for various psychologies and psychotherapies they pretend to explanatory power.  At best, typologies describe “syndromes,” patterns of fruit and life experience that commonly occur together.24 Current typologies are not helpful for exposing the real issues in the lives of real people.  At best they are redundant of good description and intimate knowledge of a particular individual.  At worst, they are bearers of misleading conceptual freight, for they duck the idolatry issues.

How do we explain the fact that all of us are not exactly like Wally though we share the same generic set of idolatrous tendencies?: the numerous forms of pride and the fear of man; obsession with sensual pleasures; preoccupation with money; tendencies towards self-trust regarding our opinions, agendas, abilities; the creation of false views of God based on our life experience and desires; desire to be intrinsically righteous, worthy, and esteemable; and the like.  Jay Adams has perceptively commented on the commonality inhering within individual styles of sin:

Sin, then, in all of its dimensions, clearly is the problem with which the Christian counselor must grapple.  It is the secondary dimensions—the variations on the common themes—that make counseling so difficult.  While all men are born sinners and engage in the same sinful practices and dodges, each develops his own styles of sinning.  The styles (combinations of sins and dodges) are peculiar to each individual; but beneath them are the common themes.  It is the counselor’s work to discover these commonalities beneath the individualities.25

 ‘Neighborhoods’ in Vanity Fair

How do individual styles develop?  Certainly particular “neighborhoods” in Vanity Fair can empower different idols.  It doesn’t surprise us that Wally’s demanding and unpleasable father can be correlated with a particular form of the “fear of man” as a significant idol in Wally’s heart.  Yet because of the continual interplay of idol-making heart with idol-offering milieu, another child might grow up with very accepting parents, and the “fear of man” would be similarly empowered as a lust never to be rejected or fail.  Our idols both covet what we do not have and hold on for dear life to what we do have.

Many of the nuances of our idolatries are socially shaped by the opportunities and values that surround us.  For example, it is unsurprising that more people will become homosexuals (or adulterers, or pornographers, or whatever) in a culture that makes certain forms of sexual sin available, legitimate, or normal.  For example, Wally grew up in a family moderately obsessed with academic and professional achievement.  His next door neighbor might have grown up in a family obsessed with escapist pleasure, and he might have been nurtured to live for “Miller Time” and televised sports.  The generic idols in every heart may bear different fruit in different people.  For example, Baal is no threat to produce “religious” forms of idolatry today, but Mormonism is such a threat.

Much of the variation among us is simply empowered by the “accidents” of life experience: tragedies or smooth sailing, handicaps or health, riches or poverty, New York City or Iowa or Uganda, a high school or a graduate school education, first-born or eighth-born, male or female, born in 1500 B.C. or 1720 or 1920 or 1960, and the like.  Much individual variation is due to hereditary and temperamental differences: kinds of intelligence, physical coordination and capabilities, variation in talents and abilities, metabolic and hormonal differences, and so forth.  In the last analysis, idiosyncratic choice from among the opportunities and options one encounters accounts for the nearly infinite range for individuality within the “commonalities” that biblical categories discern in us.

The diagnostic categories which pierce to the commonalities are categories such as “idolatry versus faith,” which we are using here.  These alone can embrace both the fluidities and relative stabilities of Wally’s world, flesh, and devil—and can embrace the true God who has saved Wally.  They apply toevery person in a way which is simple, but never simplistic, accounting for all the complexities.  For all our differences, the Bible speaks to every one of us.

OTHER DIAGNOSTIC PERSPECTIVES AND THE GOSPEL: MULTIPERSPECTIVAL INTERPRETATION

As we have indicated, Wally’s mass of behaviors, attitudes, cognitions, value judgments, emotions, influences, et al. can be understood right down to the details utilizing the biblical notion of idolatry.  The disorder in Wally’s life is produced by the interplay between particular idols of his heart and particular idols of his social environment.  Sins occur at the confluence of disoriented heart motives and disoriented socio-cultural systems of all sizes.  The intention of this essay has been to explore some of the dense connections between flesh and world.  But there are other ways of approaching these things which are important to recognize.

Notably absent has been attention to the equally dense connecting links between the Devil and both world and flesh in the production of Wally’s dysfunctional and sinful living.  “Who rules me?” invites awareness of spiritual powers.  Idols and demons go hand in hand in literal worship of false gods.  Not surprisingly, the functional lordship of Satan is equally evident in the more subtle idolatries that enslave Wally.  Does this mean that Wally is “demon-possessed” and the treatment of choice is exorcism?  Decidedly not.  But wherever we are problematically afraid or angry—to isolate two particular bad fruits—we are being formed into Satan’s image rather than Christ’s.  The same modalities that fight world and flesh also fight the Devil.  Intelligent faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is ultimately the answer.  But awareness of the spiritual warfare occurring emphasizes the fact that Christian counseling is a ministry of prayer.26 Awareness of spiritual warfare also helps shake us out of the behavioral science mindset which tempts us to think about people psycho-socially, rather than with respect to God.

The Dark Lord’s stratagems are all intended to establish his lordship over people.  Satan methodically disintegrates Wally’s relationships, leads him into gross sins, deceives his mind into highly distorted and selective perceptions, accuses him into despair, discourages him, ties his life into knots in every imaginable way, fans normal desires into inordinate and addictive desires and “needs,” and the like.  This article has primarily attended to “world and flesh.”  “Devil” completes the monolithic triad of biblical perspectives on the motivation of problem behavior.

Also notably absent has been detailed attention to the somatic influences on Wally.  His problems are exacerbated by allergies, overtiredness, a diet with too much “junk food,” sexual frustration and a sedentary lifestyle.  Close attention to patterns of irritability, marital tension, sexual lust, and depression would consistently reveal a plausible somatic component.  The fact that monitoring caffeine and sugar intake, and getting more regular rest, sexual intercourse, and exercise moderates Wally’s symptoms also points to somatic influences.  Somatic factors, at minimum, influence the “quantity” of Wally’s problems, though they do not create the “quality” of his problems.  A tense irritability can flare into rage and cursing.  A case of “the blues” can spiral into bleak despair.  A tendency to ogle women can break out into purchasing Penthouse.  Wally’s body variously exacerbates or moderates the intensity of his sins.  It does not create new kinds of sins.

The Role of the Will

Also notably absent has been a discussion of the degree to which Wally’s behavior is willed and, hence, immediately controllable.  As was stressed earlier, paying biblical attention to motives of heart and world is no ploy for cutting the force out of the Bible’s view of human responsibility.  Wally chooses, even when he plunges down well-worn ruts where a fork in the road seems experientially nonexistent.  Wally has made headway in self-discipline at various times in his life. He knows what is wrong and what is right.  He is able to describe many times when he “bull-headedly chose wrong.”  He can also tell of many times when he acted out of conscious faith in Christ to choose right.

Recognizing choice does not negate the power of world, flesh, and Devil.  The more Wally grows to know himself and his environment, the more he consciously knows and experiences that he has always been making choices.  One of the purposes of working with the idol motif (or with its more culturally accessible equivalents: the idolatrous desires, hopes, fears, expectations and goals which own people) is to expand the arena in which Wally is aware of the choices he has been making implicitly.  Sanctification expands the arena of conscious choice and biblical self-control.

Also notably absent has been a discussion of the providence of God in bringing intense, transforming experiences.  Wally’s conversion “dropped out of the sky” and gave him months of freedom from sins, joy in Christ, and growing love for people.  He has had other “high times” as a Christian: times of greater vision, love, and liberty produced by a good sermon, at a retreat, or by some inexplicable opening of his heart to God in a moment of daily life.

But changes in Wally’s life—whether the product of victories in conscious spiritual warfare, of physiological alterations, of volitional commitment or of mountaintop experiences—seemingly “happen” at random.  These four paradigms often provide the stuff with which Wally thinks about problems and change in his life.  Wally has little sense of confidence that his life is moving in the direction of consistent, intelligent, desirable, whole-souled change.  His life in general seems to be an unhappy chaos, with occasional and temporary moments of symptomatic relief.  One of the goals of this essay is to describe several elements which can make change more consistent, internalized, self-conscious and genuinely transformative.  In my experience the Wallys, both inside and outside the church, tend to be very blind to the things that move them.  It is a curious but not uncommon phenomenon that a biblically literate person like Wally has no effective grasp on the idols of his own heart and the temptations of the particular Vanity Fair which surrounds him.27 Wally is all action, impulse, and emotion.  He knows relatively little about what God sees going on in his heart and his world.  The question, “What is God’s agenda in my life?” can often be answered with some confidence when I start to grasp the themes which play out in my life.

My analysis has been predominantly “psycho-social” (covenantally psycho-social!).  A full biblical analysis of Wally’s problems would be a “psycho-social-spiritual-somatic-volitional-experiential” analysis.28 To understand the exact weight of each variable is, obviously, to quest after something which is—from a human point of view, the intentions of social scientists notwithstanding!—ultimately elusive.  But the Bible’s answer is always powerfully applicable: turning from idols to the living God, renewal of mind and heart in the truth, activities captured in shorthand by the phrase “repentance and faith.”

The Lordship Question

There is some utility to teasing out these two strands of human motivation, while never forgetting that we are focusing only on several perspectives within a unified whole.  The two I have concentrated on in this article— the heart and the social milieu—without question receive the bulk of the Bible’s attention.  But the question of human motivation is ultimately the multiperspectival question of lordship, of faith in idols and false gods in tension with vital faith in the true God.  This can be looked at through numerous lenses:

  • Lordship through the lens of our hearts: The grace-filled, “strait and narrow” will of the Spirit versus the rampant, idolatrous desires of my flesh.

  • Lordship through the lens of social influences: Social shaping by the Kingdom of God and the body of Christ versus imbibing the models and values of the kingdoms of our world (various micro-kingdoms of marital and family systems; on up through progressively larger kingdoms of peer relations; of neighborhood, school, and work place cultures; of ethnic group, socio-economic class, nationality, etc.).

  • Lordship through the lens of spiritual masters: The good King Jesus versus the tyrant Satan.

  • Lordship through the lens of somatic influences: living through bodily pains and frustrations in the hope of the resurrection versus immediate service to and preoccupation with my belly’s and body’s pains, pleasures, deprivations, and wants.

  • Lordship through the lens of volitional choices: Conscious faith in God’s promises and obedience to God’s will versus believing and choosing according to my spontaneous will, desires, and opinions, “the way that seems right to a man.”

  • Lordship through the lens of experiential providence: Learning to rejoice in God amid blessings and to repent and trust God amid sufferings versus growing presumptuous, proud, or self-satisfied when things go our way and depressed, angry, or afraid when life is painful, frustrating, or unsure.

Though this article has commented particularly on the interplay between the first two lenses, my intent throughout has been to expand our view of Wally, not to constrict it.  Within the biblical conceptual framework we can bring into view all of Wally and his world.  The notion of behavior as ruled lets us hold together seeming paradoxes.  Wally is fully responsible for what he does.  Wally’s inner life is full of kinks, distortions, and blind compulsions.  Wally is continually being conditioned from without, tempted, tried, and deceived.  Wally is also a Christian.  The Spirit and the Word can work powerfully both to reorient him from the inside and to set him free from the control of what impinges on him.

Idolatry and the Ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

In this article my attention has been heavily weighted towards the issue of diagnosis: How do we biblically understand people?  But biblical diagnosis bridges immediately into biblical treatment.  The understanding of people presented here enables the message of the Gospel to apply relevantly to the problems of troubled people.

One of the major challenges facing Christian counselors is how to apply the Gospel of the love of God incisively.  There are many faulty, distorted, or inadequate ways to go about this.  The Gospel is easily truncated and weakened when idols of the heart and Vanity Fair are unperceived or misperceived.  But if we accurately comprehend the interweaving of responsible behavior, deceptive inner motives, and powerful external forces, then the riches of Christ become immediately relevant to people.  What was once “head knowledge” and “dry doctrine” becomes filled with wisdom, rel-evancy, appeal, hope, delight, and life.  People see that the Gospel is far richer than a ticket to heaven and rote forgiveness for oft-repeated behavioral sins.

How many Wallys—and Ellens—are stuck with a vague guilt over seemingly unshakable, destructive patterns?  But when Wally sees his heart’s true need and his need for deliverance from enslaving powers-that-be, he then sees how exactly he really needs Christ.  Christ powerfully meets people who are aware of their real need for help.29 We Christian counselors, both in our own lives and in our counseling, frequently do not get the Gospel straight, pointed, and applicable.  I will consider two broad tendencies among Christians who seek to help their fellows: psychologizing and moralizing.

Christian counselors with a psychologizing drift typically have a genuine interest in the motivation that underlies problem behavior.  Psychologically-oriented Christians attempt to deal with both the internal and external forces that prompt and structure behavior.  The heart issues are typically misread, however.  “Need” categories tend to replace biblical categories—idolatry, desires of the flesh, fear of man, etc.—which relate the heart immediately to God.  Also, environmental issues such as a history of abuse, poor role models, and dysfunctional family patterns tend to be given more deterministic status than they have in the biblical view.

These views of inner and outer motivation fit hand-in-glove as an explanation for behavioral and emotional problems.  “You feel horrible and act badly because your needs aren’t met because your family didn’t meet them.”  The logic of therapy coheres with the logic of the diagnosis: “I accept you, and God really accepts you.  Your needs can be met, and you can start to change how you feel and act.”  Behavioral responsibility is muted, and the process of change becomes more a matter of need-meeting than conscious repentance/metanoia and renewal of mind unto Christ.

What is the Gospel?

What happens to the Gospel when idolatry themes are not grasped?  “God loves you” typically becomes a tool to meet a need for self-esteem in people who feel like failures.  The particular content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—”grace for sinners and deliverance for the sinned against”—is down-played or even twisted into “unconditional acceptance for the victims of others’ lack of acceptance.”  Where “the Gospel” is shared, it comes across something like this: “God accepts you just as you are.  God has unconditional love for you.”  That is not the biblical Gospel, however.  God’s love is not Rogerian unconditional positive regard writ large.  A need theory of motivation—rather than an idolatry theory—bends the Gospel solution into “another gospel” which is essentially false.

The Gospel is better than unconditional love.  The Gospel says, “God accepts you just as Christ is. God has ‘contraconditional’ love for you.”  Christ bears the curse you deserve.  Christ is fully pleasing to the Father and gives you His own perfect goodness.  Christ reigns in power, making you the Father’s child and coming close to you to begin to change what is unacceptable to God about you. God never accepts me “as I am.”  He accepts me “as I am in Jesus Christ.”  The center of gravity is different.  The true Gospel does not allow God’s love to be sucked into the vortex of the soul’s lust for acceptability and worth in and of itself.  Rather, it radically decenters people—what the Bible calls “fear of the Lord” and “faith”—to look outside themselves.

Christian counselors with a psychologizing drift typically are very concerned with ministering God’s love to people who view God as the latest and greatest critic whom they can never please.  But their failure to conceptualize people’s problems in the terms this article has been exploring inevitably creates a tendency towards teaching a Liberal Gospel.  The cross becomes simply a demonstration that God loves me.  It loses its force as the substitutionary atonement by the perfect Lamb in my place, who invites my repentance for heart-pervading sin.  “The wound of my people is healed lightly.”30

Christian counselors with moralistic tendencies face a different sort of problem.  Where there is a moralizing drift to Christian counseling, Christ’s forgiveness is typically applied simply to behavioral sins.  The content of the Gospel is usually more orthodox than the content of the psychologized Gospel, but the scope of application may be truncated.  Those with psychologizing tendencies at least notice our inner complexities and outer sufferings, though they distort both systematically.  In some ways the moralizing tendency represents an inadequate grip on the kinds of “bad news” this article has been exploring.

Moralistic Christianity does not usually evidence much interest in the pressures and sufferings of our social milieu.  Counselors fear that such interest would necessarily feed those varieties of blame-shifting and accusation which spring up so readily in our hearts.  Human responsibility would be compromised.  But they do not see that understanding the evil that happens to me—the Vanity Fair that is swirling around my life—is a crucial part of my widening and deepening appreciation of Christ.  Attendance to the forces that have pressured and shaped me—and are shaping me—for ill allows me to respond intelligently, responsibly, and mercifully.  As psalm after psalm demonstrates, our sufferings are the context in which we experience the love of God, both to comfort us and to change us.  We are comforted in our afflictions as we learn of God’s promises and power.  We are changed in our afflictions as we learn to take refuge in God rather than in vain idols.

Moralizers are also weak on the inward side of motivation.  Heart motives may be attended to in part via an awareness of “self” or “flesh.”  But the solution is typically construed in all-or-nothing terms. Conversion, “Let go and let God,” and “total yieldedness” attempt to deal with motive problems through a single act of first-blessing or second-blessing housecleaning.  The Gospel is for the beginning of the Christian life or a dramatic act of consecration.  There is little sense of the patient process of inner renewal which someone like Wally—and each of us!—needs.  Jesus says to take up our cross daily, dying to the false gods we fabricate, and learning to walk in fellowship with Him who is full of grace to help us.  Receptivity to God’s love—”The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want”—is the absolutely necessary prerequisite for any sort of active obedience to God.31

I have looked at two common truncations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Both evidence an inadequate grasp of the deviance of our hearts and our corresponding vulnerability to external influences.  People are idol-makers, idol-buyers and idol-sellers.32 We wander through a busy town filled with other idol-makers, idol-buyers, and idol-sellers.  We variously buy and sell, woo, agree, intimidate, manipulate, borrow, impose, attack, or flee.  But there is a bigger Gospel.  At the gates of Vanity Fair, Christian met a man who entreated him and his companion:

Let the Kingdom be always before you; and believe steadfastly concerning things that are invisible.  Let nothing that is on this side of the other world get within you; and, above all, look well to your own hearts, and to the lusts thereof, for they are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.  Set your faces like a flint; you have all power in heaven and earth on your side.33

Christian passed through Vanity Fair bloodied but purer in heart.  He remembered, amid hard combat with world, flesh, and Devil, the Celestial City which was his destination, and the Lord Jesus who beckoned him to life.

The biblical Gospel delivers from both personal sin and situational tyrannies.  The biblical notion of inner idolatries allows people to see their need for Christ as a merciful savior from large sins of both heart and behavior.  The notion of socio-cultural-familial-ethnic idolatries allows people to see Christ as a powerful deliverer from false masters and false value systems which we tend to absorb automatically. Christ-ian counseling is counseling which exposes our motives—our hearts and our world—in such a way that the authentic Gospel is the only possible answer.

Article published on October 9, 2009 @ http://www.ccef.org/idols-heart-and-vanity-fair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Powlison

David Powlison, M.Div., Ph.D. worked for four years in psychiatric hospitals, during which time he came to faith in Christ. He teaches at CCEF and edits The Journal of Biblical Counseling (soon to be re-launched online). He received a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in the history of science and medicine, focusing on the history of psychiatry. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary, and has been doing biblical counseling for over 30 years. He has written numerous articles on counseling and on the relationship between faith and psychology. His books include Speaking Truth in Love, Seeing with New Eyes, Power Encounters, and The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context. – See more at: http://www.ccef.org/biography/david-powlison#sthash.BgnGUHsy.dpuf


1 The “First Great Commandment,” like the first two or three commandments from the decalogue, contrasts fidelity to the Lord with infidelities. The open battle with idolatry appears vividly with the golden calf and reappears throughout Judges, Samuel, Kings, the prophets, and Psalms.

2 This confluence of the world, the flesh, and the devil is unsurprising, as it recurs throughout the Scriptures: see Ephesians 2:1-3 and James 4:1-7 for particularly condensed examples.

3 “Heart” is the most comprehensive biblical term for what determines our life direction, behavior, thoughts, etc. See Proverbs 4:23, Mark 7:21-23, Hebrews 4:12f, etc.  The metaphor of “circumcision or uncircumcision of heart” is similar to “idols of the heart,” in that an external religious activity is employed to portray the inward motivational dynamics which the outward act reflects.

4 See such summary statements by Paul, Peter, John, and James as Galatians 5:16ff; Ephesians 2:3 & 4:22; 1 Peter 2:11 & 4:2; 1 John 2:16; James 1:14f, where epithumiai is the catch-all for what is wrong with us.

5 Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5.

6 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), pages 84-93.

7 I’m commenting here only on the impact of “negative” social influences, which both communicate their idols to us and provoke our hearts to produce idols.  If you rage at me, I tend to learn from you something about the supreme importance of getting my own way, as well as a few tricks and techniques for accomplishing that.  I also instinctively tend to generate compensatory idols in order to retaliate, to defend, or to escape. We tend to return evil for evil.

I could equally comment on the impact of “positive” social influences—both in Bunyan and in life—which communicate faith to us and tend to encourage faith in our hearts and repentance from idolatry.  The biblical way to deal with “enemies,” returning good for evil, is both learned from others and a product of the heart.

8 Sociologists, anthropologists, and historians of psychiatry have described how most symptoms and all diagnostic labels are culture-bound.  This is especially true with regard to functional problems (as opposed to the distinctly organic problems) which comprise the vast bulk of human misery and bad behavior.  This relativizing observation means that diagnostic labels are not “scientific” and “objectively true.”  Labels are occasionally useful heuristically if we recognize them for what they are: crude taxonomic orderings of observations.  But labels are elements within schemas of value and interpretation.  Because diagnostic categories are philosophically and theologically “loaded,” a Christian who seeks to be true to the Bible’s system of value and interpretation must generate biblical categories and must approach secular categories with extreme skepticism.

9 It is obvious that if idolatry is the problem of the “co-dependent,” then repentant faith in Christ is the solution.  This stands in marked contrast to the solutions proffered in the co-dependency literature, whether secular or glossed with Christian phrases.  That literature often perceptively describes the patterns of dysfunctional idols—addictions and dependencies— which curse and enslave people.  The idols which enslave the rescuer or the compulsive drinker do not work very well for them.

The literature may even use “idolatry” as a metaphor, without meaning “idolatry against God, therefore repentance.”  The solution, without exception, is to offer different and presumably more workable idols, rather than repentance unto the Bible’s Christ!  Secularistic therapies teach people eufunctional idols, idols which do “work” for people and “bless” them with temporarily happy lives (Psalm 73).

So, for example, self-esteem is nurtured as the replacement for trying to please unpleasable others, rather than esteem for the Lamb who was slain for me, a sinner.  Acceptance and love from new significant others, starting with the therapist, create successful versions of the fear of man and trust in man rather than teaching essential trust in God.  Self-trust and self-confidence are boosted as I am taught to set expectations for myself to which I can attain. The fruit looks good but is fundamentally counterfeit. Believers in false gospels are sometimes allowed to flourish temporarily.

Therapy systems without repentance at their core leave the idol system intact. They simply rehabilitate and rebuild fundamental godlessness to function more successfully.

The Bible’s idolatry motif diagnoses the ultimately self-destructive basis on which happy, healthy, and confident people build their lives (eufunctional idols), just as perceptively as it diagnoses unhappy people, who are more obviously and immediately self-destructive (dysfunctional idols).

10 Terminology is, of course, not indifferent. “Personal problems” and “dysfunctional living” imply a primary responsibility only to oneself, family, and society.  “Sin” implies a primary responsibility to God the Judge, with personal and social responsibilities entailed as secondary consequences.

11 The Bible’s mode of everyday observation is comfortable describing both the push and the pull of human motivation as complementary perspectives.  Psychologies tend to throw their weight either towards drives or towards goals.  Idolatry is a fertile and flexible conceptual category which stays close to the data of life, unlike the speculative abstractions of alternative and unbiblical explanations.

12 Matthew 4:1-4, 6:25-34, John 6, and Deuteronomy 8 are four passages, among many, which work out these themes in greater practical detail.  Notice how the language of relating to God—love, trust, fear, hope, seek, serve, take refuge, etc.—can be applied to relating to food.

13 Matthew 6:32: “The nations run after these things.”

14 Proverbs 29:25; Jeremiah 17:5-8.

15 Resemblances between “Wally” and any actual human being are purely coincidental products of the essential similarities among all of us.  The external details of this case study are fabricated of snippets and patterns from many different lives, altered in all the particulars of behavior, gender, age, background, etc.

Similarly, the analysis of idolatries derives from a biblical analysis of the generic human heart—my own heart included— rather than from any particular individuals. Wally is Everyman, idiosyncratically manifesting idolatrous human nature.

16 Mark 10:42-45.

17 John Calvin, in his remarkable discussion of the nature of man in the opening section of hisInstitutes, comments on the way that idols “boil up from within us.”  It could equally be said that they boil up around us.  There is always some object at hand for us to put our faith in.

18 I am indebted to Dick Keyes of L’Abri Fellowship for this felicitous phrase.

19 Where do we begin in counseling? Are there hierarchies of influence or “key” influential relationships to tackle?  There may well be.  In particular, is Wally’s relationship with his parents the key to effective counseling?  Not necessarily, although psychodynamic psychology is strongly biased towards parent-child relationships.  The Bible is not similarly biased (either for or against looking at relationships with parents).

I do not believe that in this case, as presented, Wally’s relationships with his father and mother are the most important ones to tackle now in counseling.  Theoretically, we could tackle any troubled relationship in Wally’s life, and we would end up grappling with generically similar issues, the same idols and sins.  My instincts in counseling would be to tackle vignettes involving Wally and Ellen or his children.  That is where most of the hot patterns are being played out.  His relationship with his father could come up as could other significant relationships where there are live issues.  But for Wally to grow and be renewed, to repent intelligently, to be transformed both in heart and behavior, he does not necessarily need to look at the parental relationship.

20 And “there is no temptation which is not common to all men” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  This pride/fear of man oscillation is run-of-the-mill human nature.  It plays itself out in an endless variety of forms.

21 Of course, at specific points in time specific idols will need to be named and faced.  Wise biblical counseling grapples with specifics.  Jesus faces the rich, young ruler with his mammon worship.  The parable of the sower faces people with their unbelief, their social conformity, their preoccupying riches, pleasure, and cares (all of which can be rephrased as expressions of the idol motif).  In the Old Testament Elijah directly confronts Baal worship.  For example, Wally will need to deal with his drive to perform in people’s eyes as the issue unfolds in counseling.

22 Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of the Spiritual Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), page 110.

23 Isaiah 53:6 and Judges 21:25.

24 The word “syndrome” ought to be stripped of its clinical pretensions to significant explanatory power.  It is purely descriptive.  It literally means, “things that tend to all run along together.”

25 Jay Adams, Christian Counselor’s Manual (U.S.A.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973), Page 124f.

26 Acts 6:4 is a classic text defining ministry in terms of both truth and prayer.  Ephesians 6:10-20 is a classic text on the mode of warfare: faith in all its elements and ways of expression defeats demonic powers.  James 3:13-4:12 adds the note that repentance is crucial to the defeat of Satan.

27 The Bible indicates the reason for this by frequently describing our inordinate desires as “deceptive.”  Satan is the arch-deceiver.  We tend to conform to the atmospheric deceptions of our socio-cultural milieu.  Our idols are so plausible and instinctive that a person can even describe them, without really seeing them as the crucial problem in his or her life.

28 There are doubtless any number of other ways of slicing the pie of human motivation.  See Tim Keller’s “Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling” (The Journal of Pastoral Practice, 9:3 (1988), pages 11-44) for a stimulating portrayal of the multi-perspectival subtlety of a previous generation of Christian counselors.

29 Hebrews 4:12-16; Matthew 5:3-6; Luke 11:1-13; Matthew 11:28-30; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; indeed, the entire Bible!  Christ’s forte is our acknowledged need in the face of compulsions from within and pressures from without.

30 Jeremiah 8:11(cf.23:16f).

31 Active love is the fruit of receptive faith.  Psalm 23—like many portions of Scripture—is a pure promise to be drunk in.  Other passages detail the transition from gift to gratitude, from root to fruit, from abiding to fruit-bearing, from faith to works (Galatians 5 and 1 John 4:7-5:12 are two of the most sustained expositions).  Performance-oriented people like Wally, idol-driven people, rarely drink and eat of the life-giving bread of heaven.

32 We have not mentioned how Wally’s distorted system of interpretation and valuation affects—is “sold” to—his children, wife, friends, and parents.  There is obviously a feedback loop of mutual effects, a vicious circle.

Conversely, as Wally is able to change both heart and behavior, he will create a gracious circle of positive effects in his family and church.  We have emphasized the negative side of social shaping, but faith is just as catching as idolatry.

33 Bunyan, ibid., page 83.

– See more at: http://www.ccef.org/idols-heart-and-vanity-fair#sthash.oEMKasPC.dpuf

David Murray on 7 Reasons To Study Your Old Testament

On the basis of my less-than-scientific survey of Christians’ Bible reading habits, I would estimate that the Old Testament forms less than 10 percent of most Christians’ Bible reading. Remove the Psalms and Proverbs, and we’re probably down to less than 5 percent.

“So what?” many say.

“No great loss, is there?” others shrug.

Let me suggest seven reasons to stop shrugging and start studying the other 60 percent of our Bibles.

1. The Old Testament reveals Christ.

The Old Testament doesn’t just “point forward” to Christ; it reveals him. It isn’t merely a series of signposts to Christ; his revealing shadow falls on every page, exciting faith and love in believing hearts.

But why linger in the Old Testament shadows when we have New Testament sunlight?

Have you never found it easier to read and be refreshed in shade? Have you never admired the unique and wondrous beauty of the dawn?

Consider the unparalleled revelation of Christ’s substitutionary atonement in Isaiah 53. And although the Gospels describe Christ’s outer life, the messianic psalms disclose his mysterious inner life, the unfathomably deep emotional and mental struggles of his earthly suffering.

2. The Old Testament is a dictionary of Christian vocabulary.

How do we understand the theological words, phrases, and concepts of the New Testament? If we turn to a modern dictionary, we will import 21st-century Western meaning into ancient Eastern words. Greek lexicons will usually get us closer to the original meaning, but that still assumes the biblical authors were influenced exclusively by Greek culture.

Rather, when we come to a word, phrase, or concept in the New Testament, our first question should be, “What does the Old Testament say?” Remember, the New Testament was originally written by Jews, and much of it was written to Jews. It assumes knowledge of the Old Testament and builds upon it.

3. The Old Testament is a manual for Christian living.

While there is understandable debate over the continuing validity of a small percentage of Old Testament laws, there are 10 clear and unchanging moral principles that God applies in different ways in different contexts: to Israel in the wilderness (Exod. 20), to Israel about to enter the promised land (Deut. 5), and to Israel settled in the land (Proverbs). Jesus and the apostles continue this varied cultural application of these same 10 moral principles for their own generation (e.g. Matt. 5; Eph. 5). All these examples provide models for how to think about and apply these moral principles in our own day.

4. The Old Testament presents doctrine in story form.

God has not only given us laws; he’s given us lives. He’s incarnated his 10 moral principles in the lives of Old Testament characters, providing us with fascinating biographies to inspire and warn (1 Cor. 10:11Luke 17:32).

We also see New Testament doctrines worked out in Old Testament believers’ lives: through typology we learn most about Christ’s priesthood from Aaron, kingship from David, and prophetic office from Moses. Abraham demonstrates justifying faith, Elijah portrays effectual and fervent prayer, Ruth and Naomi display the communion of saints, Job perseveres through the Lord’s preservation, and David exhibits how forgiveness and chastisement often go together. And it’s all in the vivid Technicolor and Dolby of flesh-and-blood humanity.

5. The Old Testament comforts and encourages us.

As we read the Old Testament narratives, we experience the beautiful comfort and hope that Paul promised would accompany such study (Rom. 15:4). We are comforted with God’s sovereign love, majestic power, and covenant faithfulness in his relationship with Israel.

When we know the Old Testament backgrounds of the “Hall of Faithers” in Hebrews 11, we’re encouraged to follow their Christ-focused faith and spirituality.

In the Psalms, we’re given songs that have comforted and encouraged believers throughout the world and throughout the centuries.

And when we see the way that hundreds of Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ, our faith in God and his Word is strengthened.

6. The Old Testament saves souls.

The apostle Paul had the highest regard for the Old Testament’s origin, nature, power, and purpose (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But the Old Testament wasn’t only helpful for Christian living; it gave Christian life. When Paul assured Timothy that “the Holy Scriptures [are] able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” he was speaking of the Old Testament (2 Tim. 3:15). Like the New Testament, the Old Testament also saved (and still saves) souls through faith in the Messiah.

7. The Old Testament makes you appreciate the New Testament more.

For all the Old Testament reveals of Jesus, and of Christian doctrine and experience, we must concede that it also conceals, that there’s a lot of frustrating shadow, that there’s unfulfilled longing and desire, that there’s often something—or rather someone—missing. The more we read it, the more we long for and love the incarnate Christ of the New Testament. The dawn is beautiful, but the sunrise is stunning.

About the Author:

David Murray

David P. Murray is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Murray blogs regularly at Head, Heart, Hand: Leadership for Servants. Learn more about reading and applying the Old Testament from David Murray’s new book, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson, 2013). The article above was adapted from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/08/27/jesus-on-every-page-7-reasons-to-study-your-old-testament/

R.C. Sproul Summarizes The Doctrines of Grace: “T.U.L.I.P”

TULIPS

In a series of blog articles at ligonier.org entitled “TULIP and Reformed Theology,” Dr. R. C. Sproul provided a brief summary of the five points of Calvinism (also known as the Doctrines of Grace) expressed in the acrostic TULIP:

INTRODUCTION

Just a few years before the Pilgrims landed on the shores of New England in the Mayflower, a controversy erupted in the Netherlands and spread throughout Europe and then around the world. It began within the theological faculty of a Dutch institution that was committed to Calvinistic teaching. Some of the professors there began to have second thoughts about issues relating to the doctrines of election and predestination. As this theological controversy spread across the country, it upset the church and theologians of the day. Finally, a synod was convened. Issues were squared away and the views of certain people were rejected, including those of a man by the name of Jacobus Arminius.

The group that led the movement against orthodox Reformed theology was called the Remonstrants. They were called the Remonstrants because they were remonstrating or protesting against certain doctrines within their own theological heritage. There were basically five doctrines that were the core of the controversy. As a result of this debate, these five core theological issues became known in subsequent generations as the “five points of Calvinism.” They are now known through the very popular acrostic TULIP, which is a clever way to sum up the five articles that were in dispute. The five points, as they are stated in order to form the acrostic TULIP, are: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.

I mention this historical event because it would be a serious mistake to understand the essence of Reformed theology simply in light of these five doctrines—the Reformed faith involves many other elements of theological and ecclesiastical confession. However, these are the five controversial points of Reformed theology, and they are the ones that are popularly seen as distinctive to this particular confession. Over the next five posts, we are going to spend some time looking at these five points of Calvinism as they are spelled out in the acrostic TULIP.

(1) TOTAL DEPRAVITY

The doctrine of total depravity reflects the Reformed viewpoint of original sin. That term—original sin—is often misunderstood in the popular arena. Some people assume that the term original sin must refer to the first sin—the original transgression that we’ve all copied in many different ways in our own lives, that is, the first sin of Adam and Eve. But that’s not what original sin has referred to historically in the church. Rather, the doctrine of original sin defines the consequences to the human race because of that first sin.

Virtually every church historically that has a creed or a confession has agreed that something very serious happened to the human race as a result of the first sin—that first sin resulted in original sin. That is, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, the entire human race fell, and our nature as human beings since the fall has been influenced by the power of evil. As David declared in the Old Testament, “Oh, God, I was born in sin, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). He was not saying that it was sinful for his mother to have borne children; neither was he saying that he had done something evil by being born. Rather, he was acknowledging the human condition of fallenness—that condition that was part of the experience of his parents, a condition that he himself brought into this world. Therefore, original sin has to do with the fallen nature of mankind. The idea is that we are not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we are sinners.

In the Reformed tradition, total depravity does not mean utter depravity. We often use the term total as a synonym for utter or for completely, so the notion of total depravity conjures up the idea that every human being is as bad as that person could possibly be. You might think of an archfiend of history such as Adolf Hitler and say there was absolutely no redeeming virtue in the man, but I suspect that he had some affection for his mother. As wicked as Hitler was, we can still conceive of ways in which he could have been even more wicked than he actually was. So the idea of total total depravity doesn’t mean that all human beings are as wicked as they can possibly be. It means that the fall was so serious that it affects the whole person. The fallenness that captures and grips our human nature affects our bodies; that’s why we become ill and die. It affects our minds and our thinking; we still have the capacity to think, but the Bible says the mind has become darkened and weakened. The will of man is no longer in its pristine state of moral power. The will, according to the New Testament, is now in bondage. We are enslaved to the evil impulses and desires of our hearts. The body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin.

I like to replace the term total depravity with my favorite designation, which is radical corruption. Ironically, the word radical has its roots in the Latin word for “root,” which is radix, and it can be translated root or core. The term radical has to do with something that permeates to the core of a thing. It’s not something that is tangential or superficial, lying on the surface. The Reformed view is that the effects of the fall extend or penetrate to the core of our being. Even the English word core actually comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart.” That is, our sin is something that comes from our hearts. In biblical terms, that means it’s from the core or very center of our existence.

So what is required for us to be conformed to the image of Christ is not simply some small adjustments or behavioral modifications, but nothing less than renovation from the inside. We need to be regenerated, to be made over again, to be quickened by the power of the Spirit. The only way in which a person can escape this radical situation is by the Holy Spirit’s changing the core, the heart. However, even that change does not instantly vanquish sin. The complete elimination of sin awaits our glorification in heaven.

(2) UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

The Reformed view of election, known as unconditional election, means that God does not foresee an action or condition on our part that induces Him to save us. Rather, election rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save.

In the book of Romans, we find a discussion of this difficult concept. Romans 9:10–13 reads: “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Here the Apostle Paul is giving his exposition of the doctrine of election. He deals with it significantly in Romans 8, but here he illustrates his teaching of the doctrine of election by going back into the past of the Jewish people and looking at the circumstances surrounding the birth of twins—Jacob and Esau. In the ancient world, it was customary for the firstborn son to receive the inheritance or the patriarchal blessing. However, in the case of these twins, God reversed the process and gave the blessing not to the elder but to the younger. The point that the Apostle labors here is that God not only makes this decision prior to the twins’ births, He does it without a view to anything they would do, either good or evil, so that the purposes of God might stand. Therefore, our salvation does not rest on us; it rests solely on the gracious, sovereign decision of God.

This doesn’t mean that God will save people whether they come to faith or not. There are conditions that God decrees for salvation, not the least of which is putting one’s personal trust in Christ. However, that is a condition for justification, and the doctrine of election is something else. When we’re talking about unconditional election, we’re talking in a very narrow confine of the doctrine of election itself.

So, then, on what basis does God elect to save certain people? Is it on the basis of some foreseen reaction, response, or activity of the elect? Many people who have a doctrine of election or predestination look at it this way. They believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time and He knew in advance who would say yes to the offer of the gospel and who would say no. On the basis of this prior knowledge of those who will meet the condition for salvation—that is, expressing faith or belief in Christ—He elects to save them. This is conditional election, which means that God distributes His electing grace on the basis of some foreseen condition that human beings meet themselves.

Unconditional election is another term that I think can be a bit misleading, so I prefer to use the term sovereign election. If God chooses sovereignly to bestow His grace on some sinners and withhold His grace from other sinners, is there any violation of justice in this? Do those who do not receive this gift receive something they do not deserve? Of course not. If God allows these sinners to perish, is He treating them unjustly? Of course not. One group receives grace; the other receives justice. No one receives injustice. Paul anticipates this protest: “Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Rom. 9:14a). He answers it with the most emphatic response he can muster. I prefer the translation, “God forbid” (v. 14b). Then he goes on to amplify this response: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (v. 15). Here the Apostle is reminding his reader of what Moses declared centuries before; namely, that it is God’s divine right to execute clemency when and where He desires. He says from the beginning, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” It is not on those who meet some conditions, but on those whom He is pleased to bestow the benefit.

(3) LIMITED ATONEMENT

I think that of all the five points of Calvinism, limited atonement is the most controversial, and the one that engenders perhaps the most confusion and consternation. This doctrine is chiefly concerned about the original purpose, plan, or design of God in sending Christ into the world to die on the cross. Was it the Father’s intent to send His Son to die on the cross to make salvation possible for everyone, but with the possibility that His death would be effective for no one? That is, did God simply send Christ to the cross to make salvation possible, or did God, from all eternity, have a plan of salvation by which, according to the riches of His grace and His eternal election, He designed the atonement to ensure the salvation of His people? Was the atonement limited in its original design?

I prefer not to use the term limited atonement because it is misleading. I rather speak of definite redemption or definite atonement, which communicates that God the Father designed the work of redemption specifically with a view to providing salvation for the elect, and that Christ died for His sheep and laid down His life for those the Father had given to Him.

One of the texts that we often hear used as an objection against the idea of a definite atonement is 2 Peter 3:8–9: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The immediate antecedent of the word any in this passage is the word us, and I think it’s perfectly clear that Peter is saying that God is not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to salvation. He’s not speaking of all mankind indiscriminately; the us is a reference to the believing people to whom Peter is speaking. I don’t think we want to believe in a God who sends Christ to die on the cross and then crosses His fingers, hoping that someone will take advantage of that atoning death. Our view of God is different. Our view is that the redemption of specific sinners was an eternal plan of God, and this plan and design was perfectly conceived and perfectly executed so that the will of God to save His people is accomplished by the atoning work of Christ.

This does not mean that a limit is placed on the value or the merit of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s traditional to say that the atoning work of Christ is sufficient for all. That is, its meritorious value is sufficient to cover the sins of all people, and certainly anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus Christ will receive the full measure of the benefits of that atonement. It is also important to understand that the gospel is to be preached universally. This is another controversial point, because on the one hand the gospel is offered universally to all who are within earshot of the preaching of it, but it’s not universally offered in the sense that it’s offered to anyone without any conditions. It’s offered to anyone who believes. It’s offered to anyone who repents. Obviously the merit of the atonement of Christ is given to all who believe and to all who repent of their sins.

(4) IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic. Now that’s a three-dollar word. It means essentially that the divine operation called rebirth or regeneration is the work of God alone. An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono- means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God. He, and He alone, has the power to change the disposition of the soul and the human heart to bring us to faith.

In addition, when He exercises this grace in the soul, He brings about the effect that He intends to bring about. When God created you, He brought you into existence. You didn’t help Him. It was His sovereign work that brought you to life biologically. Likewise, it is His work, and His alone, that brings you into the state of rebirth and of renewed creation. Hence, we call this irresistible grace. It’s grace that works. It’s grace that brings about what God wants it to bring about. If, indeed, we are dead in sins and trespasses, if, indeed, our wills are held captive by the lusts of our flesh and we need to be liberated from our flesh in order to be saved, then in the final analysis, salvation must be something that God does in us and for us, not something that we in any way do for ourselves.

However, the idea of irresistibility conjures up the idea that one cannot possibly offer any resistance to the grace of God. However, the history of the human race is the history of relentless resistance to the sweetness of the grace of God. Irresistible grace does not mean that God’s grace is incapable of being resisted. Indeed, we are capable of resisting God’s grace, and we do resist it. The idea is that God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. It is not that the Holy Spirit drags people kicking and screaming to Christ against their wills. The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing. Indeed, we aren’t dragged to Christ, we run to Christ, and we embrace Him joyfully because the Spirit has changed our hearts. They are no longer hearts of stone that are impervious to the commands of God and to the invitations of the gospel. God melts the hardness of our hearts when He makes us new creatures. The Holy Spirit resurrects us from spiritual death, so that we come to Christ because we want to come to Christ. The reason we want to come to Christ is because God has already done a work of grace in our souls. Without that work, we would never have any desire to come to Christ. That’s why we say that regeneration precedes faith.

I have a little bit of a problem using the term irresistible grace, not because I don’t believe this classical doctrine, but because it is misleading to many people. Therefore, I prefer the term effectual grace, because the irresistible grace of God effects what God intends it to effect.

(5) PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

Writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end” (Phil. 1:6). Therein is the promise of God that what He starts in our souls, He intends to finish. So the old axiom in Reformed theology about the perseverance of the saints is this: If you have it—that is, if you have genuine faith and are in a state of saving grace—you will never lose it. If you lose it, you never had it.

We know that many people make professions of faith, then turn away and repudiate or recant those professions. The Apostle John notes that there were those who left the company of the disciples, and he says of them, “Those who went out from us were never really with us” (1 John 2:19). Of course, they were with the disciples in terms of outward appearances before they departed. They had made an outward profession of faith, and Jesus makes it clear that it is possible for a person to do this even when he doesn’t possess what he’s professing. Jesus says, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). Jesus even warns at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that at the last day, many will come to Him, saying: “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name? Didn’t we do that in your name?” He will send them away, saying: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). He will not say: “I knew you for a season and then you went sour and betrayed Me. No, you never were part of My invisible church.” The whole purpose of God’s election is to bring His people safely to heaven; therefore, what He starts He promises to finish. He not only initiates the Christian life, but the Holy Spirit is with us as the sanctifier, the convictor, and the helper to ensure our preservation.

I want to stress that this endurance in the faith does not rest on our strength. Even after we’re regenerated, we still lapse into sin, even serious sin. We say that it is possible for a Christian to experience a very serious fall, we talk about backsliding, we talk about moral lapses, and so on. I can’t think of any sin, other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that a truly converted Christian is not capable of committing.

We look, for example, at the model of David in the Old Testament. David was surely a man after God’s own heart. He was certainly a regenerate man. He had the Spirit of God in Him. He had a profound and passionate love for the things of God. Yet this man not only committed adultery but also was involved in a conspiracy to have his lover’s husband killed in war—which was really conspiracy to murder. That’s serious business. Even though we see the serious level of repentance to which David was brought as a result of the words of the prophet Nathan to him, the point is that David fell, and he fell seriously.

The apostle Paul warns us against having a puffed-up view of our own spiritual strength. He says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). We do fall into very serious activities. The Apostle Peter, even after being forewarned, rejected Christ, swearing that he never knew Him—a public betrayal of Jesus. He committed treason against His Lord. When he was being warned of this eventuality, Peter said it would never happen. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan would have you and sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, so that when you turn, strengthen the brothers” (Luke 22:31). Peter fell, but he returned. He was restored. His fall was for a season. That’s why we say that true Christians can have radical and serious falls but never total and final falls from grace.

I think this little catchphrase, perseverance of the saints, is dangerously misleading. It suggests that the perseverance is something that we do, perhaps in and of ourselves. I believe that saints do persevere in faith, and that those who have been effectually called by God and have been reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit endure to the end. However, they persevere not because they are so diligent in making use of the mercies of God. The only reason we can give why any of us continue on in the faith is because we have been preserved. So I prefer the term the preservation of the saints, because the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God. My confidence in my preservation is not in my ability to persevere. My confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession. He is going to bring us safely home.

About The Author:

Sproul R C image seated with Bible

Dr. R.C. Sproul has been a professor of Apologetics, Philosophy, and Theology at numerous Seminaries. He is the Founder of Ligonier Ministries, President of Reformation Bible College, and the Senior Minister of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Sanford, Fl. He has authored over 70 books including the following books on Soteriology: Chosen By God; Willing to Believe; Getting the Gospel Right; What is Reformed Theology?; The Truth of the Cross; Faith Alone; and Grace Unknown.

Tim Keller on The Gospel Is NOT Everything

“THE GOSPEL IS NOT EVERYTHING”

(Adapted from Tim Keller’s fantastic Gospel saturated book Center Church: Doing Balanced Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012, Chapter One [I have written out many of the Scripture references in BOLD ITALIC print for ease of reference from the ESV – DPC])

What do we mean by “the gospel”? Answering this question is a bit more complex than we often assume. Not everything the Bible teaches can be considered “the gospel” (although it can be argued that all biblical doctrine is necessary background for understanding the gospel). The gospel is a message about how we have been rescued from peril. The very word gospel has as its background a news report about some life-altering event that has already happened:

Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Luke 2:10, And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

1 Corinthians 1:16-17 & 15:1-11, (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power…Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

 (1) The gospel is good news, not good advice.

The gospel is not primarily a way of life. It is not something we do, but something that has been done for us and something that we must respond to. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament — the Septuagint — the word euangelizo (proclaim good news) occurs twenty-three times. As we see in Psalm 40: 9 (ESV) — “I have told the glad news of [your] deliverance in the great congregation” — the term is generally used to declare the news of something that has happened to rescue and deliver people from peril. In the New Testament, the word group euangelion (good news), euangelizo (proclaim good news), and euangelistes (one who proclaims good news) occurs at least 133 times.

D. A. Carson draws this conclusion from a thorough study of gospel words:

Because the gospel is news, good news… it is to be announced; that is what one does with news. The essential heraldic element in preaching is bound up with the fact that the core message is not a code of ethics to be debated, still less a list of aphorisms to be admired and pondered, and certainly not a systematic theology to be outlined and schematized. Though it properly grounds ethics, aphorisms, and systematics, it is none of these three: it is news, good news, and therefore must be publicly announced (D.A. Carson, “What Is the Gospel? –Revisited,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton, ILL.: Crossway, 2010, 158.

(2) The gospel is good news announcing that we have been rescued or saved.

And what are we rescued from? What peril are we saved from? A look at the gospel words in the New Testament shows that we are rescued from the “coming wrath” at the end of history (1 Thessalonians 1:10, “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come”).

But this wrath is not an impersonal force — it is God’s wrath. We are out of fellowship with God; our relationship with him is broken. In perhaps the most thoroughgoing exposition of the gospel in the Bible, Paul identifies God’s wrath as the great problem of the human condition (Rom 1:18–32).

Romans 1:18-32, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Genesis 3:1-19, Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Here we see that the wrath of God has many ramifications. The background text is Genesis 3:17–19 (Genesis 3 passage above), in which God’s curse lies on the entire created order because of human sin. Because we are alienated from God, we are psychologically alienated within ourselves — we experience shame and fear (Gen 3:10). Because we are alienated from God, we are also socially alienated from one another (v. 7 describes how Adam and Eve must put on clothing, and v. 16 speaks of alienation between the genders; also notice the blame shifting in their dialogue with God in vv. 11–13). Because we are alienated from God, we are also physically alienated from nature itself. We now experience sorrow, painful toil, physical degeneration, and death (vv. 16–19). In fact, the ground itself is “cursed” (v. 17; see Rom 8:18–25 below).

Romans 8:18-25, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Since the garden, we live in a world filled with suffering, disease, poverty, racism, natural disasters, war, aging, and death — and it all stems from the wrath and curse of God on the world. The world is out of joint, and we need to be rescued. But the root of our problem is not these “horizontal” relationships, though they are often the most obvious; it is our “vertical” relationship with God.

All human problems are ultimately symptoms, and our separation from God is the cause. The reason for all the misery — all the effects of the curse — is that we are not reconciled to God. We see this in such texts as Romans 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:20 (below).

Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Therefore, the first and primary focus of any real rescue of the human race — the main thing that will save us — is to have our relationship with God put right again.

(3) The gospel is news about what has been done by Jesus Christ to put right our relationship with God.

Becoming a Christian is about a change of status. First John 3:14 (emphasis added) states that “we have passed from death to life,” not we are passing from death to life ((The verb translated “passed” in 1 John 3:14 is metabaino, which means to “cross over.” In John 5:24, Jesus states, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who went me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over [metabaino] from death to life.” A parallel passage is Colosssians 1:13, where it is said that Christ-followers have been transferred from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of the Son). You are either in Christ or you are not; you are either pardoned and accepted or you are not; you either have eternal life or you don’t. This is why Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones often used a diagnostic question to determine a person’s spiritual understanding and condition. He would ask, “Are you now ready to say that you are a Christian?” He recounts that over the years, whenever he would ask the question, people would often hesitate and then say, “I do no feel that I am good enough.” To that, he gives this response:

At once I know that… they are still thinking in terms of themselves; their idea still is that they have to make themselves good enough to be a Christian… It sounds very modest but it is the lie of the devil, it is a denial of the faith… you will never be good enough; nobody has ever been good enough. The essence of the Christian salvation is to say that He is good enough and that I am in Him! (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965, 34).

Lloyd-Jones’s point is that becoming a Christian is a change in our relationship with God. Jesus’ work, when it is believed and rested in, instantly changes our standing before God. We are “in him.”

Ever since reading J. I. Packer’s famous essay introducing John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ, I have liked “God saves sinners” as a good summary of gospel: God saves sinners. God — the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves — does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners— men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot (J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ” – see this website [verticallivingministries.com] under the category “Soteriology” or “J.I. Packer”).

THE GOSPEL IS NOT THE RESULTS OF THE GOSPEL

The gospel is not about something we do but about what has been done for us, and yet the gospel results in a whole new way of life. This grace and the good deeds that result must be both distinguished and connected. The gospel, its results, and its implications must be carefully related to each other— neither confused nor separated. One of Martin Luther’s dicta was that we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that remains alone. His point is that true gospel belief will always and necessarily lead to good works, but salvation in no way comes through or because of good works. Faith and works must never be confused for one another, nor may they be separated.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:14, 17-18, 20-26).

I am convinced that belief in the gospel leads us to care for the poor and participate actively in our culture, as surely as Luther said true faith leads to good works. But just as faith and works must not be separated or confused, so the results of the gospel must never be separated from or confused with the gospel itself. I have often heard people preach this way: “The good news is that God is healing and will heal the world of all its hurts; therefore, the work of the gospel is to work for justice and peace in the world.” The danger in this line of thought is not that the particulars are untrue (they are not) but that it mistakes effects for causes. It confuses what the gospel is with what the gospel does. When Paul speaks of the renewed material creation, he states that the new heavens and new earth are guaranteed to us because on the cross Jesus restored our relationship with God as his true sons and daughters. Romans 8:1–25 teaches, remarkably, that the redemption of our bodies and of the entire physical world occurs when we receive “our adoption.” As his children, we are guaranteed our future inheritance, and because of that inheritance, the world is renewed. The future is ours because of Christ’s work finished in the past.

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:13-14,18).

“giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light… knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 1:12; 3:24).

“Therefore he [Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:15).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

We must not, then, give the impression that the gospel is simply a divine rehabilitation program for the world, but rather that it is an accomplished substitutionary work. We must not depict the gospel as primarily joining something (Christ’s kingdom program) but rather as receiving something (Christ’s finished work). If we make this error, the gospel becomes another kind of a salvation by works instead of a salvation by faith.

As J. I. Packer writes:

The gospel does bring us solutions to these problems [of suffering and injustice], but it does so by first solving… the deepest of all human problems, the problem of man’s relation with his Maker; and unless we make it plain that the solution of these former problems depends on the settling of this latter one, we are misrepresenting the message and becoming false witnesses of God (J.I. Packer. Knowing God. Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity, 1973, p. 171).

A related question has to do with whether the gospel is spread by the doing of justice. Not only does the Bible say over and over that the gospel is spread by preaching, but common sense tells us that loving deeds, as important as they are as an accompaniment of preaching, cannot by themselves bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Francis Schaeffer argued rightly that Christians’ relationships with each other constitute the criterion the world uses to judge whether their message is truthful — so Christian community is the “final apologetic” (Francis Schaeffer. The Mark of the Christian. Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity, 1977, p. 25; cf. Timothy George and John Woodbridge. The Mark of Jesus: Loving in a Way the World Can See. Chicago: Moody, 2005).

Notice again, however, the relationship between faith and works. Jesus said that a loving community is necessary for the world to know that God sent him (John 17:23, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” And John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”).

Sharing our goods with each other and with the needy is a powerful sign to nonbelievers (see the relationship between witness and sharing in Acts 4:31– 37 and Acts 6). But loving deeds — even though they embody the truths of the gospel and cannot be separated from preaching the gospel — should not be conflated with it. The gospel, then, is preeminently a report about the work of Christ on our behalf — that is why and how the gospel is salvation by grace. The gospel is news because it is about a salvation accomplished for us. It is news that creates a life of love, but the life of love is not itself the gospel (See D.A. Carson, “What Is the Gospel? —Revisited,” in For the Fame of God’s Name, 158).

THE GOSPEL HAS TWO EQUAL AND OPPOSITE ENEMIES

The ancient church father Tertullian is reputed to have said, “Just as Jesus was crucified between two thieves, so the gospel is ever crucified between these two errors” (Having heard and read this in the words of other preachers, I have never been able to track down an actual place in Tertullian’s writings where he says it. I think it may be apocryphal, but the principle is right).

What are these errors to which Tertullian was referring? I often call them religion and irreligion; the theological terms are legalism and antinomianism. Another way to describe them could be moralism and relativism (or pragmatism).

These two errors constantly seek to corrupt the message and steal away from us the power of the gospel. Legalism says that we have to live a holy, good life in order to be saved. Antinomianism says that because we are saved, we don’t have to live a holy, good life.

This is the location of the “tip of the spear” of the gospel. A very clear and sharp distinction between legalism, antinomianism, and the gospel is often crucial for the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit to work. If our gospel message even slightly resembles “you must believe and live right to be saved” or “God loves and accepts everyone just as they are,” we will find our communication is not doing the identity-changing, heart-shaping transformative work described in the next part of this book. If we just preach general doctrine and ethics from Scripture, we are not preaching the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God has accomplished our salvation for us through Christ in order to bring us into a right relationship with him and eventually to destroy all the results of sin in the world.

Still, it can be rightly argued that in order to understand all this — who God is, why we need salvation, what he has done to save us — we must have knowledge of the basic teachings of the entire Bible. J. Gresham Machen, for example, speaks of the biblical doctrines of God and of man to be the “presuppositions of the gospel” ((J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, new ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001, 99).

This means that an understanding of the Trinity, of Christ’s incarnation, of original sin and sin in general — are all necessary. If we don’t understand, for example, that Jesus was not just a good man but the second person of the Trinity, or if we don’t understand what the “wrath of God” means, it is impossible to understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Not only that, but the New Testament constantly explains the work of Christ in Old Testament terms — in the language of priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant.

In other words, we must not just preach the Bible in general; we must preach the gospel. Yet unless those listening to the message understand the Bible in general, they won’t grasp the gospel. The more we understand the whole corpus of biblical doctrine, the more we will understand the gospel itself — and the more we understand the gospel, the more we will come to see that this is, in the end, what the Bible is really about. Biblical knowledge is necessary for the gospel and distinct from the gospel, yet it so often stands in when the gospel is not actually present that people have come to mistake its identity.

 THE GOSPEL HAS CHAPTERS

So, the gospel is good news — it is not something we do but something that has been done for us. Simple enough. But when we ask questions like “Good news about what?” or “Why is it good news?” the richness and complexity of the gospel begin to emerge.

There are two basic ways to answer the question “What is the gospel?” One is to offer the biblical good news of how you can get right with God. This is to understand the question to mean, “What must I do to be saved?” The second is to offer the biblical good news of what God will fully accomplish in history through the salvation of Jesus. This is to understand the question as “What hope is there for the world?”

If we conceive the question in the first, more individualistic way, we explain how a sinful human being can be reconciled to a holy God and how his or her life can be changed as a result. It is a message about individuals. The answer can be outlined: Who God is, what sin is, who Christ is and what he did, and what faith is. These are basically propositions.

If we conceive of the question in the second way, to ask all that God is going to accomplish in history, we explain where the world came from, what went wrong with it, and what must happen for it to be mended. This is a message about the world. The answer can be outlined: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. These are chapters in a plotline, a story. There is no single way to present the biblical gospel. Yet I urge you to try to be as thoughtful as possible in your gospel presentations. The danger in answering only the first question (“What must I do to be saved?”) without the second (“What hope is there for the world?”) is that, standing alone, the first can play into the Western idea that religion exists to provide spiritual goods that meet individual spiritual needs for freedom from guilt and bondage. It does not speak much about the goodness of the original creation or of God’s concern for the material world, and so this conception may set up the listener to see Christianity as sheer escape from the world. But the danger in conceiving the gospel too strictly as a story line of the renewal of the world is even greater. It tells listeners about God’s program to save the world, but it does not tell them how to actually get right with God and become part of that program. In fact, I’ll say that without the first message, the second message is not the gospel. J. I. Packer writes these words:

In recent years, great strides in biblical theology and contemporary canonical exegesis have brought new precision to our grasp of the Bible’s overall story of how God’s plan to bless Israel, and through Israel the world, came to its climax in and through Christ. But I do not see how it can be denied that each New Testament book, whatever other job it may be doing, has in view, one way or another, Luther’s primary question: how may a weak, perverse, and guilty sinner find a gracious God? Nor can it be denied that real Christianity only really starts when that discovery is made. And to the extent that modern developments, by filling our horizon with the great metanarrative, distract us from pursuing Luther’s question in personal terms, they hinder as well as help in our appreciation of the gospel  (J. I. Packer, In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2007, 26 – 27).

Still, the Bible’s grand narrative of cosmic redemption is critical background to help an individual get right with God. One way to proceed is to interleave the two answers to the “What is the gospel?” question so that gospel truths are laid into a story with chapters rather than just presented as a set of propositions. The narrative approach poses the questions, and the propositional approach supplies the answers.

How would we relate the gospel to someone in this way? What follows is a “conversational pathway” for presenting the gospel to someone as the chapters in a story. In the Bible, the term gospel is the declaration of what Jesus Christ has done to save us. In light of the biblical usage, then, we should observe that chapters 1 (God and Creation), 2 (Fall and Sin), and 4 (Faith) are not, strictly speaking, “the gospel.” They are prologue and epilogue. Simon Gathercole argues that both Paul and the Gospel writers considered the good news to have three basic elements: the identity of Jesus as Son of God and Messiah, the death of Jesus for sin and justification, and the establishment of the reign of God and the new creation (Simon Gathercole, “The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom,” in God’s Power to Save, ed. Chris Green. Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity, 2006, 138 – 54).

The gospel, then, is packed into chapter 3, with its three headings — incarnation, substitution, and restoration. Chapter 1 on God and chapter 2 on sin constitute absolutely critical background information for understanding the meaning of the person and work of Jesus, and chapter 4 helps us understand how we must respond to Jesus’ salvation. Nevertheless, it is reasonable and natural to refer to the entire set of four chapters as “the gospel.”

WHERE DID WE COME FROM?

Answer: God. There is one God. He is infinite in power, goodness, and holiness and yet also personal and loving, a God who speaks to us in the Bible. The world is not an accident, but the creation of the one God (Genesis 1). God created all things, but why did he do that? Why did he create the world and us? The answer is what makes the Christian understanding of God profound and unique. While there is only one God, within God’s being there are three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit —who are all equally God and who have loved, adored, served, and enjoyed one another from all eternity. If God were unipersonal, then he would have not known love until he created other beings. In that case, love and community would not have been essential to his character; it would have emerged later. But God is triune, and therefore love, friendship, and community are intrinsic to him and at the heart of all reality. So a triune God created us (John 1: 1 – 4), but he would not have created us to get the joy of mutual love and service, because he already had that. Rather, he created us to share in his love and service. As we know from John 17: 20– 24, the persons of the Trinity love and serve one another — they are “other-oriented”  (D. A. Carson in The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2000, pp. 39 & 43 writes, “What we have, then, is a picture of God whose love, even in eternity past, even before the creation of anything, is other-oriented. This cannot be said [for instance] of Allah. Yet because the God of the Bible is one, this plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God… There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God… We are the friends of God by virtue of the intra-Trinitarian love of God that so worked out in the fullness of time that the plan of redemption, conceived in the mind of God in eternity past, has exploded into our space-time history at exactly the right moment.”).

And thus God created us to live in the same way. In order to share the joy and love that God knew within himself, he created a good world that he cares for, a world full of human beings who were called to worship, know, and serve him, not themselves (See “The Dance of Creation,” in Tim Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008, pp. 225– 26; “The Dance,” in Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. New York: Dutton, 2011, 3– 13).

WHY DID THINGS GO SO WRONG?

Answer: Sin. God created us to adore and serve him and to love others. By living this way, we would have been completely happy and enjoyed a perfect world. But instead, the whole human race turned away from God, rebelling against his authority. Instead of living for God and our neighbors, we live lives of self-centeredness. Because our relationship with God has been broken, all other relationships — with other human beings, with our very selves, and with the created world — are also ruptured. The result is spiritual, psychological, social, and physical decay and breakdown. “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” — the world now lies under the power of sin (Quote from the poem “The Second Coming,” 1920 by William Butler Yeats).

Sin reaps two terrible consequences. One consequence is spiritual bondage (Rom 6: 15–18). We may believe in God or we may not believe, but either way, we never make him our greatest hope, good, or love. We try to maintain control of our lives by living for other things — for money, career, family, fame, romance, sex, power, comfort, social and political causes, or something else. But the result is always a loss of control, a form of slavery. Everyone has to live for something, and if that something is not God, then we are driven by that thing we live for — by overwork to achieve it, by inordinate fear if it is threatened, deep anger if it is being blocked, and inconsolable despair if it is lost. So the novelist David Foster Wallace, not long before his suicide, spoke these words to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College:

Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship… is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough… Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is… they’re unconscious. They are default settings (Emily Bobrow, “David Foster Wallace, in His Own Words,” taken from his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College, http:// moreintelligentlife.com/ story/ david-foster-wallace-in-his-own-words; accessed January 4, 2012).

The second basic consequence of sin is condemnation (Rom 6: 23). We are not just suffering because of sin; we are guilty because of sin. Often we say, “Well, I’m not very religious, but I’m a good person — and that is what is most important.” But is it? Imagine a woman —a poor widow —with an only son. She teaches him how she wants him to live — to always tell the truth, to work hard, and to help the poor. She makes very little money, but with her meager savings she is able to put him through college. Imagine that when he graduates, he hardly ever speaks to her again. He occasionally sends a Christmas card, but he doesn’t visit her; he won’t answer her phone calls or letters; he doesn’t speak to her. But he lives just like she taught him — honestly, industriously, and charitably. Would we say this was acceptable? Of course not! Wouldn’t we say that by living a “good life” but neglecting a relationship with the one to whom he owed everything he was doing something condemnable? In the same way, if God created us and we owe him everything and we do not live for him but we “live a good life,” it is not enough. We all owe a debt that must be paid.

WHAT WILL PUT THINGS RIGHT?

Answer: Christ. First, Jesus Christ puts things right through his incarnation. C. S. Lewis wrote that if there is a God, we certainly don’t relate to him as people on the first floor of a building relate to people on the second floor. We relate to him the way Hamlet relates to Shakespeare. We (characters) might be able to know quite a lot about the playwright, but only to the degree that the author chooses to put information about himself in the play (See C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967, pp. 167– 76).

In the Christian view, however, we believe that God did even more than simply give us information. Many fans of Dorothy Sayers’s detective stories and mystery novels point out that Sayers was one of the first women to attend Oxford University. The main character in her stories — Lord Peter Wimsey — is an aristocratic sleuth and a single man. At one point in the novels, though, a new character appears, Harriet Vane. She is described as one of the first women who graduated from Oxford — and as a writer of mystery novels. Eventually she and Peter fall in love and marry. Who was she? Many believe Sayers looked into the world she had created, fell in love with her lonely hero, and wrote herself into the story to save him. Very touching! But that is not nearly as moving or amazing as the reality of the incarnation (John 1: 14). God, as it were, looked into the world he had made and saw our lostness and had pity on his people. And so he wrote himself into human history as its main character (John 3: 16). The second person in the Trinity, the Son of God, came into the world as a man, Jesus Christ.

The second way Jesus puts things right is through substitution. Because of the guilt and condemnation on us, a just God can’t simply shrug off our sins. Being sorry is not enough. We would never allow an earthly judge to let a wrongdoer off, just because he was contrite — how much less should we expect a perfect heavenly Judge to do so? And even when we forgive personal wrongs against us, we cannot simply forgive without cost. If someone harms us and takes money or happiness or reputation from us, we can either make them pay us back or forgive them— which means we absorb the cost ourselves without remuneration.

Jesus Christ lived a perfect life — the only human being to ever do so. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

At the end of his life, he deserved blessing and acceptance; at the end of our lives, because every one of us lives in sin, we deserve rejection and condemnation. “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks [Gentiles], are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:9–12).

Yet when the time had fully come, Jesus received in our place, on the cross, the rejection and condemnation we deserve (“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” – 1 Peter 3:18), so that, when we believe in him, we can receive the blessing and acceptance he deserves (“For our sake he made him to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” – 2 Corinthians 5: 21).

There is no more moving thought than that of someone giving his life to save another. In Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, two men — Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton — both love the same woman, Lucie Manette, but Lucie chooses to marry Charles. Later, during the French Revolution, Charles is thrown in prison and awaits execution on the guillotine. Sydney visits Charles in prison, drugs him, and has him carried out. When a young seamstress (also on death row) realizes that Sydney is taking Charles’s place, she is amazed and asks him to hold her hand for strength. She is deeply moved by his substitutionary sacrifice — and it wasn’t even for her! When we realize that Jesus did the very same thing for us, it changes everything — the way we regard God, ourselves, and the world.

The third way Jesus will put things right is through the eventual restoration of all that has gone wrong with the world. The first time Jesus came from heaven to earth, he came in weakness to suffer for our sins. But the second time he comes, he will judge the world, putting a final end to all evil, suffering, decay, and death. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God…But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (Romans 8:19–21; 2 Peter 3:13).

This means that Christ’s salvation does not merely save our souls so we can escape the pain of the curse on the physical world. Rather, the final goal is the renewal and restoration of the material world, and the redemption of both our souls and our bodies. Vinoth Ramachandra notes how unique this view is among the religions of the world:

So our salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in the transformation of this world… You will not find hope for the world in any religious systems or philosophies of humankind. The biblical vision is unique. That is why when some say that there is salvation in other faiths I ask them, “What salvation are you talking about?” No faith holds out a promise of eternal salvation for the world the way the cross and resurrection of Jesus do (Vinoth Ramachandra, The Scandal of Jesus. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2001, 24).

 HOW CAN I BE PUT RIGHT?

Answer: Faith. Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the grave. By faith in him, our sins can be forgiven and we can be assured of living forever with God and one day being raised from the dead like Christ. So what does it mean to believe, to have faith? First, it means to grasp what salvation “by faith” means. Believing in Christ does not mean that we are forgiven for our past, get a new start on life, and must simply try harder to live better than we did in the past. If this is your mind-set, you are still putting your faith in yourself. You are your own Savior. You are looking to your moral efforts and abilities to make yourself right with God. But this will never work. No one lives a perfect life. Even your best deeds are tainted by selfish and impure motives.

The gospel is that when we believe in Christ, there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Putting our faith in Christ is not about trying harder; it means transferring our trust away from ourselves and resting in him. It means asking, “Father, accept me not because of what I have done or ever will do but because of what Jesus has done in my place.” When we do that, we are adopted into God’s family and given the right to his eternal, fatherly love (John 1:12–13).

The second thing to keep in mind is that it is not the quality of the faith itself that saves us; it is what Jesus has done for us. It is easy to assume that being “saved by faith” means that God will now love us because of the depth of our repentance and faith. But that is to once again subtly make ourselves our own Savior rather than Jesus. It is not the amount of our faith but the object of our faith that saves us. Imagine two people boarding an airplane. One person has almost no faith in the plane or the crew and is filled with fears and doubts. The other has great confidence in the plane and the crew. They both enter the plane, fly to a destination, and get off the plane safely. One person had a hundred times more faith in the plane than the other did, but they were equally safe. It wasn’t the amount of their faith but the object of their faith (the plane and crew) that kept them from suffering harm and arriving safely at their destination. Saving faith isn’t a level of psychological certainty; it is an act of the will in which we rest in Jesus. We give ourselves wholly to him because he gave himself wholly for us (“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”– Mark 8:34; Revelation 3:20).

THE RIGHT RELATIONSHIP OF THE GOSPEL TO ALL OF MINISTRY

There is always a danger that church leaders and ministers will conceive of the gospel as merely the minimum standard of doctrinal content for being a Christian believer. As a result, many preachers and leaders are energized by thoughts of teaching more advanced doctrine, or of deeper forms of spirituality, or of intentional community and the sacraments, or of “deeper discipleship,” or of psychological healing, or of social justice and cultural engagement. One of the reasons is the natural emergence of specialization as a church grows and ages. People naturally want to go deeper into various topics and ministry disciplines. But this tendency can cause us to lose sight of the whole. Though we may have an area or a ministry that we tend to focus on, the gospel is what brings unity to all that we do. Every form of ministry is empowered by the gospel, based on the gospel, and is a result of the gospel.

Perhaps an illustration here will help. Imagine you’re in an orchestra and you begin to play, but the sound is horrific because the instruments are out of tune. The problem can’t be fixed by simply tuning them to each other. It won’t help for each person to get in tune to the person next to her because each person will be tuning to something different. No, they will all need to be tuned properly to one source of pitch. Often we go about trying to tune ourselves to the sound of everything else in our lives. We often hear this described as “getting balance.” But the questions that need to be asked are these: “Balanced to what?” “Tuned to what?” The gospel does not begin by tuning us in relation to our particular problems and surroundings; it first re-tunes us to God (Thanks to Michael Thate for this illustration).

If an element of ministry is not recognized as a result of the gospel, it may sometimes be mistaken for the gospel and eventually supplant the gospel in the church’s preaching and teaching. Counseling, spiritual direction, doing justice, engaging culture, doctrinal instruction, and even evangelism itself may become the main thing instead of the gospel. In such cases, the gospel as outlined above is no longer understood as the fountainhead, the central dynamic, from which all other things proceed. It is no longer the center of the preaching, the thinking, or the life of the church; some other good thing has replaced it. As a consequence, conversions will begin to dwindle in number because the gospel is not preached with a kind of convicting sharpness that lays bare the secrets of the heart and gives believers and nonbelievers a sense of God’s reality, even against their wills (“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. – 1 Corinthians 14:24–25).

Because the gospel is endlessly rich, it can handle the burden of being the one “main thing” of a church. First Peter 1:12 and its context indicate that the angels never tire of looking into and exploring the wonders of the gospel. It can be preached from innumerable stories, themes, and principles from all over the Bible. But when the preaching of the gospel is either confused with or separated from the other endeavors of the church, preaching becomes mere exhortation (to get with the church’s program or a biblical standard of ethics) or informational instruction (to inculcate the church’s values and beliefs). When the proper connection between the gospel and any aspect of ministry is severed, both are shortchanged.

The gospel is “heraldic proclamation” before it is anything else (D.A. Carson, “What Is the Gospel? —Revisited,” in For the Fame of God’s Name, 158). It is news that creates a life of love, but the life of love is not itself the gospel. The gospel is not everything that we believe, do, or say. The gospel must primarily be understood as good news, and the news is not as much about what we must do as about what has been done. The gospel is preeminently a report about the work of Christ on our behalf — salvation accomplished for us. That’s how it is a gospel of grace. Yet, as we will see in the next chapter, the fact that the gospel is news does not mean it is a simple message. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” understanding of the gospel.

USE WORDS IF NECESSARY

[*This insert was an interesting aside by Keller, and not in the text: The
popular saying “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” is helpful but also misleading. If the gospel were primarily about what we must do to be saved, it could be communicated as well by actions (to be imitated) as by words. But it the gospel is primarily about what God has done to save us, and how we can receive it through faith, it can only be expressed through words. Faith cannot come without hearing. This is why we read in Galatians 2:5 that heresy endangers the truth of the gospel, and why Philippians 1:16 declares that a person’s mind must be persuaded of the truth of the gospel. Ephesians 1:13 also asserts that the gospel is the word of truth. Ephesians 6:19 and Colossians 1:23 teach that we advance the gospel through verbal communication, particular preaching.]

The article above was adapted from Keller, Timothy J. (Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Kindle Locations 761-771). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

About the Author:

Keller Tim with NY Background

Dr. Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, and the author of numerous books including The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Skepticism (In my opinion the best book to date on apologetics for a postmodern culture—I think this book will do for post moderns what Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis did for moderns); and The Prodigal God (in my opinion the most clear presentation of the gospel for a post modern culture based on Luke 15).

Dr. Tim Keller on The Girl Nobody Wanted: A Christo-centric Gem

The Girl Nobody Wanted by Tim Keller (Genesis 29:15-35)

[15] Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman [relative], should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” [16] Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. [17] Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. [18] Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” [19] Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” [20] So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

[21] Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” [22] So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. [23] But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. [24] (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) [25] And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” [26] Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. [27] Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” [28] Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. [29] (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) [30] So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. [31] When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. [32] And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” [33] She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. [34] Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. [35] And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing. Gen. 29:15-35

There is no book, I believe, less sentimental about marriage and the family then the Bible. It is utterly realistic about how hard it is not to be married; and it is utterly realistic about how hard it is to be married. Out in the world, especially in the culture outside the church, there are a lot of people who are cynical about marriage. They don’t trust marriage, so they avoid it altogether or give themselves an easy escape by living together. Then there are people inside the church who are very much the opposite. They think, “Marriage, family, white picket fences—that is what family values are all about. That’s how you find fulfillment. That is what human life is all about.”

The Bible shows us marriage and the family, with all of its joys and all of its difficulties, and points us to Jesus and says, “This is who you need, this is what you need, to have a fulfilled life.” What the Bible says is so nuanced, so different, so off the spectrum. One of the places you see this is in this fascinating story—the account of Jacob’s search for his one true love. I would like you to notice three things in the story:

First, this overpowering human drive to find one true love [Key Theme – a hope];

Secondly, the devastation and disillusionment that ordinarily accompanies the search for true love;

[Third], and finally, what we can do about this longing – what will fulfill it.

 1) THE HUMAN DRIVE TO FIND ONE TRUE LOVE

At the beginning of the passage, Laban says to Jacob, “Just because you are a kinsmen [relative] of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be” (v. 15). Before continuing, let me give you the back-story.

Two generations earlier, God had come to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, and said, “Abraham, look at the misery, the death, and the brokenness. I am going to do something about it. I am going to redeem this world, and I am going to do it through your family, through one of your descendents. And therefore, in every generation of your descendents, one child will bear the Messianic line. That child will walk before me and be the head of the clan and pass the true faith on to the next generation. Then there will be another child that bears the Messianic line [seed] and another, until one day, one of your descendents will be the Messiah himself, the King of kings.”

Abraham fathered Isaac, the first in the line Messianic forebears, and when Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, became pregnant with twins, God spoke to Rebekah through and said, “The elder will serve the younger.” That was God’s way of saying that the second twin born would be the chosen one, to carry on the Messianic hope. Esau is born first and then Jacob, but in spite of the prophecy, Isaac set his heart on the oldest son. He set his heart on Esau and favored him all through his life. As a result, he distorted his entire family. Esau grew up proud, spoiled, willful, and impulsive; Jacob grew up rejected and resentful and turned into a schemer; Rebekah favored her younger son and became alienated from her husband Isaac.

Finally, the time came for the aged Isaac to give the blessing to the head of the clan, which was to be Esau; but Jacob dressed up as Esau, went in, and got the blessing. When Esau found out about it, he became determined to kill Jacob, and Jacob had to flee into the wilderness. Now everything was ruined. Jacob’s life was ruined. Not only did he no longer have a family to be the head of; he no longer had a family or an inheritance at all, and he had to flee for his life. Jacob did not know whether Esau messed up or he messed up or Isaac or maybe even God, but now his life was in ruins and he would never fulfill his destiny. Just to survive, he was forced to flee to the other side of the Fertile Crescent.

Jacob escaped to his mother’s family, and they took him in as a kind of charity case. Laban, his uncle, allowed him to be a shepherd. Laban realized that Jacob had tremendous ability as a shepherd and a manager. He figured out that he could make a lot of money if Jacob were in charge of his flocks. That is how we get to this question: “How much can I pay you to be in charge of my flocks?”

Jacob’s answer [vv. 16-18] is basically one word: Rachel.  He wanted Rachel as his bride, and was willing to work seven years for her. What do we know about Rachel? The text comes right out and says that Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful. The Hebrew word translated “form” is quite literal it means exactly what you think. It is talking about her figure. Rachel had a great figure. She had a beautiful face and was absolutely gorgeous. I want to give credit where credit is due and say that Robert Alter, the great Hebrew literature scholar at Berkeley, has helped me understand this text a lot. Alter says there are all sorts of signals in the text about how over-the-top, intensely lovesick and overwhelmed Jacob is with Rachel. There is the poignant but telling statement where the text says, “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her (v.20).”

More interesting is the next verse: “Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” Of course that means he wants to have sex with her. Alter says that this statement is so blunt, so graphic, so sexual, so over-the-top and inappropriate and non-customary that, over the centuries, Jewish commentators have had to do all kinds of backpedaling to explain it. But he says it is not that hard to explain the meaning. He says that the narrator is showing us a man driven by and overwhelmed with emotional and sexual longing for one woman.

What is going on here? Jacob’s life was empty. He never had his father’s love. Now he didn’t even have his mother’s love, and he certainly had no sense of God’s love. He had lost everything—no family, no inheritance, no nothing. And then he saw Rachel, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, the most beautiful woman for miles around, and he said to himself, “If I had her, finally, something would be right in my lousy life. If I had her, life would have meaning. If I had her, it would fix things.” If he found his one true love, life would finally be okay.

All the longings of the human heart for significance, for security, and for meaning—he had no other object for them—they were all fixed on Rachel.

Jacob was somewhat unusual for his time. Cultural historians will tell you that in ancient times people didn’t generally marry for love (that is actually a relatively recent phenomenon). They married for status. Nevertheless, he is not rare today.

Ernest Becker was a secular man, an atheist, who won the Pulitzer Prize in the 1970’s for his book The Denial of Death. In the book, he talks about how secular people deal with the fact that they don’t believe in God. He says that one of the main ways secular culture has dealt with the God vacuum is through apocalyptic sex and romance. Our secular culture has loaded its desire for transcendence into romance and love. Talking about the modern secular person, he says:

He still needed to feel heroic, to know that his life mattered in the scheme of things…He still had to merge himself with some higher, self-absorbing meaning, in trust and gratitude…If he no longer had God, how was he to do this? One of the first ways that occurred to him, as [Otto] Rank saw, was the “romantic solution.” …The self-glorification that he needed in the innermost nature he now looked for in the love partner. The love partner becomes the divine ideal within which to fulfill one’s life…

After all, what is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to the position of God? We want redemption—nothing less. We want to be rid of our faults, of our feelings of nothingness. We want to be justified, to know that our creation has not been in vain. … That is exactly what Jacob did. And that is what people are doing all over the place. That is what our culture is begging us to do—to load all of the deepest needs of our hearts for significance, security, and transcendence into romance and love, into finding that one true love. That will fix my lousy life!

Let me tell you something you notice when you live in New York City. It is a tough town; everybody looks so cool and pulled together. But the amount of money people spend on their appearance shows they are desperate. They cannot imagine living without apocalyptic romance and love. The human longing for one true love has always been around, but in our culture now, it has been magnified to an astounding degree. But where does it lead?

 2) The Disillusionment That Comes

Secondly, let’s look at the disillusionment and devastation that almost always accompanies a search for that one true love. We begin with Laban’s plot. Laban knew that Jacob offered to serve seven years for Rachel. He knew what that meant. At that time, when you wanted to marry someone, you paid the father a bride price, and it was somewhere around thirty to forty-five shekels. Robert Alter says that a month’s wages was equal to one and a half shekels, and therefore, you can see that Jacob, right out of the box is absolutely lovesick. He is a horrible bargainer; he is immediately offered three to four times the normal bride price. Laban knew he had him. He knew this man was vulnerable.

Commentators say there are indicators in the text that Laban immediately came up with a plan, realizing he could get even more out of this deal. Notice the conversation between Jacob and Laban. The text says, “Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” (v.18). Look at how Laban responds. He never says, “Yes”! He does not say, “Yes, seven years. It is a deal.” No! Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me” (v.19).

Jacob wants it to be a yes, so he hears a yes. But it is not a yes. Laban is just saying, “Yea, okay, if you want to marry Rachel, it is a good idea.”

Seven years pass; now Jacob says, “Give me my wife.” As customary, there is a great feast. In the middle of the feast, the bride is brought heavily veiled to the groom. She was given to him, and he took her into the tent. He was inebriated, as was also the custom; and in that dark tent, Jacob lay with her. The text tells us, “When morning came, there was Leah!” (v. 25). Jacob looked and discovered that he had married Leah, and had had sex with Leah, and he had consummated the marriage with Leah. Jacob, rightfully angry, goes to Laban and says, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me? (v. 25). Laban replies that it is customary for the older girl to be married before the younger girl.

I must say I have read this text for thirty years or more and I have never understood why Jacob basically says, “Oh, okay.” I have never figured it out. He is obviously angry and the situation is absolutely ridiculous. Why doesn’t Jacob kill him? Why doesn’t he throttle him? Again, Robert Alter is very helpful here. He suggests something that I think is rather profound.

First of all, what Laban literally says is: “It is not the custom here to put the younger before the older.”

Second, Alter points out that when Jacob said, “Why have you deceived me?” the word translated “deceived” is the same Hebrew word that was used in chapter 27 to describe what Jacob did to Isaac. [What goes around comes around; sowing…and reaping]

Alter says (this is surmise, but what surmise!) that it must have occurred to Jacob that Laban had only done to him what he had done to his father. In the dark, he thought he was touching Rachel, as his father in the dark of his blindness had thought he was touching Esau. Alter then quotes an ancient rabbinical commentator who imagines the conversation the next day between Jacob and Leah. Jacob says to Leah: “I called out ‘Rachel’ in the dark and you answered. Why did you do that to me?” And Leah says to him, “Your father called out ‘Esau’ in the dark and you answered. Why did you do that to him?” Fury dies on his lips. Cut to the quick. Suddenly the evil he has done has come to Jacob. And he sees what it is like to be manipulated and deceived, and meekly he picks up and works another seven years.

We leave Jacob in his devastation (I don’t have a better word for it), and then we see what it has done to Leah. Now, who is Leah? We are told that Leah is the older daughter, but the only detail we are given about her is that she has weak eyes. Nobody quite knows what “weak eyes” means; some commentators have assumed it means she has bad eyesight. But the text does not say that Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel could see a long way. Weakness probably means cross-eyed; it could mean something unsightly. But here is the point: Leah was particularly unattractive, and she had to live all of her life in the shadow of her sister who was absolutely stunning.

As a result, Laban knew no one was ever going to marry her or offer any money for her. He wondered how he was going to get rid of her, how was he going to unload her. And then he saw his chance, he saw an opening and he did it. And now the girl that Laban, her father, did not want has been given to a husband who doesn’t want her either. She is the girl nobody wants. Leah has a hollow in her heart every bit as the hollow in Jacob’s heart. Now she begins to do to Jacob what Jacob had done to Rachel and what Isaac had done to Esau. She set her heart on Jacob. You see the evil and the pathology in these families just ricocheting around again and again from generation to generation.

The last verses here are some of the most plaintive [sad] I have ever read in the Bible (most English translations tell you a little about what the words actually mean). [she uses Hebrew words that express her longing for Jacob] Leah gave birth to her first child, a boy and she named him Reuben. Reuben means, “to see” and she thought, “Now maybe my husband will see me; maybe I won’t be invisible anymore.” But she had a second son, and she named him Simeon, which has to do with hearing: “Now maybe my husband will finally listen to me.” But he didn’t. She had a third son and named him Levi, which means “to be attached,” and she said, “Maybe finally my husband’s heart will be attached to me.”

What was she doing? She was trying to get an identity through traditional family values. Having sons, especially in those days, was the best way to do that; but it was not working. She had set her heart, all of her hopes and dreams, on her husband. She thought, “If I have babies and if I have sons and my husband loves me, then finally something will be fixed in my lousy life.” Instead, she was just going down into hell. And the text says—it is sort of like the summary statement—Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. That meant she was condemned every single day. This is what I mean by hell—every single day she was condemned to see the man she most longed for in the arms of the one in whose shadow she had lived all her life. Every day was like another knife in the heart.

All we see here is devastation, right? No, that is actually not the way the text ends. But before we look at how the text ends, let me field two objections and draw two lessons.

The first objection has to do with all these ancient practices. Some people who read the text or listen to a sermon on it are thinking, Why are you telling me this story—men buying and selling women, primogeniture [pry-mo-gen-i-turr], sexual slavery—what is this about? I am offended by this kind of old primitive culture. I know they existed, but thank goodness we don’t live in a culture like that anymore. Why do we have to know about it?

First, it is important to see (and this comes from what Robert Alter says), if you read the book of Genesis, and you think it is condoning primogeniture [the right of succession belonging to the firstborn child], polygamy, and bride purchase—if you think it is condoning these things, you have not yet learned how to read. Because in absolutely every single place where you see polygamy or primogeniture, it always wreaks devastation. It never works out. All you ever see is the misery these patriarchal institutions cause in families. Alter says if you think the book of Genesis is promoting those things, you have no idea what is being said. He says these stories are subversive [seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution] to all those ancient patriarchal institutions. Just read!

You might also be thinking, Thank goodness we don’t live in a culture in which a woman’s value is based on her looks. Thank goodness we don’t live in a culture where a woman looks in a mirror and says, “Look at me I am a size 4, I can get a rich husband.” Hundreds of years ago, people used to do that but nobody does that anymore. Really?

I am sorry, I shouldn’t be sarcastic, but what in the world makes you think that we are in a less brutal culture? We are and we aren’t. Besides that, what the Bible says about the human heart is always true, it is always abiding. If anything, what we are saying is truer today than it was before.

The second objection people have has to do with the moral of the story. They ask, “Where are all the spiritual heroes in this text? Who am I supposed to be emulating? Who is the good guy? What is the moral of the story? I don’t see any! What is going on here?

The answer is: That is absolutely correct. You are starting to get it. You are starting to get the point of the Bible. What do I mean? The Bible doesn’t give us a god at the top of a moral ladder saying, “Look at the people who have found God through their great performance and their moral record. Be like them!” Of course not! Instead, over and over again, the Bible gives us absolutely weak people who don’t seek the grace they need and who don’t deserve the grace they get.

They don’t appreciate it after they get it, and continue to screw up and abuse it even after they have it. And yet, the grace keeps coming! The Bible is not about a god who gives us accounts or moral heroes. It is about grace, and that is what this story is about. So what do we learn from this story? Is there any moral? I wouldn’t put it that way, but here are two things I would want you to see?

First, we learn that through all of life there runs a ground note of cosmic disappointment. You are never going to lead a wise life, no matter who you are, unless you understand that. Here is Jacob, and he says, “If I can just get Rachel, everything will be okay.” And he goes to bed with someone whom he thinks is Rachel, and then, literally, the Hebrew says, “But in the morning, behold, it was Leah.” What does this show us? Listen, I love Leah; I really do. I have been thinking about this text for a long time, and I love her and I want to protect her, so I hope you don’t think I am being mean to her in what I am trying to say. But I want you to know that—  when you get married, no matter how great you think that marriage is going to be; when you get a career, no matter how great you think your career is going to be; when you go off to seminary, no matter how much you think it is going to make you into a man or a woman of God—in the morning, it is always Leah!You think you are going to bed with Rachel, and it in the morning, it is always Leah. Nobody has ever said this better than C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

Most people, if they have really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we have grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The souse may be a good spouse, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.

You have got to understand that it is always Leah! Why? Because if you get married, if you have families, if you go into the ministry, and say that “finally this is going to fix my life” (you don’t really think you are doing it until you do it)—those things will never do what you think they will do. In the morning, it is always Leah.

If you get married, and in any way do as Jacob does and put that kind of weight on the person you are marrying, you are going to crush him or her. You are going to kill each other. You are going to think you have gone to bed with Rachel, but you get up and it is Leah. As time goes on, eventually you are going to know that this is the case; that everything disappoints, that there is a note of cosmic disappointment and disillusionment in everything, in all things into which we most put our hopes. When you finally find that out, there are four things you can do.

One, you can blame the things and drop them and go try new ones, better ones. That is the fool’s way.

The second thing you can do is blame yourself and beat yourself up and say, “I have been a failure. I see everybody else happy. I don’t know why I’m not happy. There is something wrong with me.” So you blame yourself and you become a self-hater.

Third, you can blame the world and get cynical and hard. You say, “Curses on the entire opposite sex” or whatever, in which case you dehumanize yourself.

Lastly, you can, as C. S. Lewis says at the end of his great chapter on hope, change the entire focus of your life. He concludes, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world [something supernatural and eternal].

We see that both the liberal mindset and the conservative mindset are wrong when it comes to romance, sex, and love.

Neither serves us well. In fact, you can almost see it in Jacob and Leah. Jacob, with a liberal mindset, is after an apocalyptic hookup. He says, “Give me my wife! I want sex!” he actually says that. On the other hand, here is Leah, and what is she doing? She is the conservative. She is having babies. She is not out having a career. She is trying to find her identity in being a wife—“Now my husband will love me.”

Guess what? They are both wrong. They are not going anywhere. Their lives are a mess. That is the reason why Ernest Becker says so beautifully, “No human relationship can bear the burden of godhood… However much we idolize him [the love partner], he inevitably reflects earthly decay and imperfection. And as he is our ideal measure of value, this imperfection falls back upon us. If your partner is you “All’ then any shortcoming in him becomes a major threat to you.” – Becker, Denial of Death, 166. As Becker said, what we want when we elevate the love partner to the position of God is to be rid of our faults, to be justified to know our existence has not been in vain. We are after redemption. He then adds, “Needless to say, human partners can’t do this.” You might think that is pretty obvious; but we done believe it. We thought the Bible was a source of family values. Well, it is, in a sense, but how realistic it is! So what are we going to do? We are all creatures of our culture. We have this drive in us for one true love. What are we going to do with it? Here is the answer.

3) What We Can Do about This Longing

I want you to see what God does in Leah and for Leah. Leah is the first person to get it; she does begin to see what you are supposed to do.

Look first at what God does in her. As we have said, every time she has a child, she puts all of her hopes in her husband now loving her. And yet, one of the things scholars notice that is very curious is that even though she is clearly making a functional idol out of her husband and her family, she is calling on the Lord. She doesn’t talk about God in some general way or invoke the name of Elohim. She  uses the name Yahweh. In verse 32, it says, “And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD [Yahweh] has looked upon my affliction.” How does she know about Yahweh?

Elohim was the generic word for God back then. All creatures at that time had some general idea of God or gods; they were gods at the top of a ladder, and you had to get up to the top through rituals or through transformations of consciousness or moral performance. Everyone understood God in that sense, but Yahweh was different. Yahweh was the God who came down the ladder, the one who entered into a personal covenantal relationship and intervened to save. Certainly they didn’t know all he was going to do, but Abraham and Isaac knew something about it, and Jacob would have known about it as well. It is interesting that Leah must have learned about Yahweh from Jacob. Even though she is still in the grip of her functional idolatry, somehow she is trying, she is calling out, she is reaching out to a God of grace. She has grasped the concept.

You might say that she has got a theology of sorts, as advanced as it was at the time, but she is having trouble connecting it. She is calling him the Lord, and yet she is treating him like a “god.” Do you follow me?

She is saying, “God can help me save myself through childbearing. God can help me save myself by getting my husband’s love. So she is using God, and yet she not call him God [Elohim]; she calls him Lord [Yahweh]. She is beginning to get it, and what is intriguing is that, at the very end, something happens. The first time she gives birth she says, ‘Now maybe my husband will see me. Now maybe my husband will love me.” And when she gives birth to her third son, she says, “Now maybe my husband will be attached to me.”

Finally, it says that she conceived for the fourth time, and when she gave birth to Judah, she said, “This time!” Isn’t that defiant? It is totally different; no mention of husband, no mention of child. There is some kind of breakthrough. She says, “This time I will praise the LORD.”

At that point, she has finally taken her heart’s deepest hopes off of the old way, off of her husband and her children, and she has put them in the Lord.

Here is what I believe is going on. Jacob and Laban had stolen Leah’s life, but when she stopped giving her heart to a good thing that she had turned into an ultimate thing and gave it to the Lord, she got her life back.

May I respectfully ask you: What good thing in your life are you treating as an ultimate thing?

What do you need to stop giving your heart to if you are going to get your life back?

There are a lot of things I am certain about, but I am absolutely certain that everybody in this room has got something.

Do you know what it is?

If you have no idea, you need to think about it. Something happened to Leah; God did something in her. There was a breakthrough. She began to understand what you are supposed to do with your desire for one true love. She turned her heart toward the only real beauty, the only real lover who can satisfy those cosmic needs.

But we shouldn’t just look at what God did in her. We have to also look for what God has done for her—because God has done something for her. I believe that she had some consciousness, although it might have been semi-consciousness or just intuition, that there was something special about this last child. It would probably be reading too much into the text to say she understood, but I believe she sensed that God had done something for her. And he had.

The writer of Genesis knows what God has done. This child is Judah, and who is Judah? The writer of Genesis tells us in chapter 49 that it is through Judah that Shiloh will come, and it is through Shiloh that the King will come. This is the line! This is the Messianic line! God has come to the girl that nobody wanted, the unloved, and made her the mother of Jesus—not beautiful Rachel, but the homely one, the unwanted one, the unloved one.

Why did God do that? Does he just like the underdog? He did it because of his person and because of his work.

First, because of his person. It says that when the Lord saw Leah was not loved, he loved her. God is saying, “I am the real bridegroom. I am the husband of the husbandless. I am the father of the fatherless.” What does that  mean?

He is attracted to the people that the world is not attracted to. He loves the unwanted. He loves the unattractive. He loves the weak, the ones the world doesn’t want to be like. God says, “If nobody else is going to be the spouse of Leah, I will be her spouse.”

Guess what? It is not just those of you without spouses who need to see God as your ultimate spouse, but those of us with spouses have got to see God as our ultimate spouse as well. You have to demote the person you are married to out of first place in your heart to second place behind God or you will end up killing each other. You will put all of your freight, all the weight of all your hopes, on that person. And of course, they are human beings, they are sinners, just like you are. God says you must see him as what he is: the great bridegroom, the spouse for the spouseless. He is not just a king and we are the subjects; he is not just a shepherd and we are the sheep. He is a husband and we are his lovers. He loves us! He is ravished with us—even those of us whom no one else is ravished with; especially those of us whom no one else is ravished with. That is his person. But that is not all.

The second reason why he goes after Leah and not Rachel, why he makes the girl who nobody wanted into the mother of Jesus, the bearer of the Messianic line, the bearer of salvation to the world, is not just that he likes the underdog, but because that it the gospel.

When God came to earth in Jesus Christ, he was the son of Leah. Oh yes, he was! He became the man nobody wanted. He was born in a manger. He had no beauty that we should desire him. He came to his own and his own received him not. And at the end, nobody wanted him. Everybody abandoned him. Even his Father in heaven didn’t want him. Jesus cried out on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why did he become Leah’s son? Why did he become the man nobody wanted? For you and for me! Here is the gospel: God did not save us in spite of the weakness that he experienced as a human being but through it.  And you don’t actually get that salvation into your life through strength; it is only for those who admit they are weak. And if you cannot admit that you are a hopeless moral failure and a sinner and that you are absolutely lost and have no hope apart from the sheer grace of God, then you are not weak enough for Leah and her son and the great salvation that God has brought into the world.

God chose Leah because he is saying, “This is how salvation works. This is the upside-down way that my people will live, at least in relationship to the world, when they receive my salvation.”

Now the way up is down. The way to become rich is to give your money away. The way to become rich is to give your money away. The way to power is to serve God, when he came to earth, as the son of Leah. God made Leah, the girl nobody wanted into the mother of Jesus. Why?

Because he chooses the foolish things to shame the wise; he chooses the weak things to shame the strong; he chooses even the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no one will boast in his presence (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

In conclusion, let me give you a few practical applications.

First, if there is anyone with a Laban in their life right now, don’t be bitter and don’t beat them up. Don’t let them take advantage of you either if you can; but remember, God can use that person in your life to make you a better person in your life if you don’t become bitter.

Second, are you somebody who has been rejected, betrayed, maybe recently divorced, and you didn’t want to be? Are you a Leah? Remember, God knows what it is like to be rejected. He didn’t just love Leah, but he actually became Leah. He became the son of Leah. He came to his own and his own received him not.

He understands rejection, and if anything, he is, from what we can tell in the Scripture, attracted to people in your condition. It is his nature, so don’t worry. He knows and he cares.

Third, please don’t let marriage throw you. I have been saying this all along: in the morning, it will always be Leah. And if you understand that, it will make some of you less desperate in your marriage-seeking, and it will make some of you less angry at your spouse for his imperfections.

Last, you may believe you have messed up your life; that your life is on plan B. You should have done this or that, and now it is too late. Think about it:

Should Jacob have deceived Isaac and Esau? No.

Should Isaac have shown the favoritism that turned Jacob into a liar? No.

Everybody sinned. There are no excuses. They shouldn’t have done what they did. They blew up their lives. But if those things hadn’t happened, would Jacob have met the love of his life, Rachel?

Jesus Christ, who is a result of Jacob’s having to flee to the other side of the Fertile Crescent, isn’t plan B! You can’t mess up your life. You can’t mess up God’s plan for you. You will find that no matter how much you do to mess it up, all you are doing is fulfilling his destiny for you.

That does not mean what they did was okay. The devastation and the unhappiness and the misery that happens in your life because of your sins are your fault. You are responsible, you shouldn’t do them; and yet, God is going to work through you. Those two things are together. It is an antinomy, a paradox.

Remember, it is never too late for God to work in your life! Never! You can’t put yourself on plan B. Go to him. Start over now. Say it: “This time, no matter what else I have done, I will praise the Lord!”

*[Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart – Psalm 37:4]

The sermon manuscript by Dr. Timothy Keller above was adapted and excerpted in parts from the original sermon and from the printed manuscript that can be found in the excellent book of sermons edited by Dr. Dennis E. Johnson entitled: Heralds of the King: Christ-Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.

 About The Author/Preacher:

In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal books including:

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. New York, Dutton, 2011.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2011.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.